Date: October 28, 2016
An evening at the Inn In The Mist almost turns messy when visiting ninja recognize more than one of the inn's residents.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Awake The Snake - Pt. 1"
Inn In The Mist, Miati Forest - Land of Fire
The Inn in the Mist is a rather out-of-the-way locale. It's located in the middle of Miati Forest, in the Land of Fire, and a bit off the beaten path, but sees enough business to keep running. Which is good, because it is home to more than one long-term resident. In addition to the inn keeper, Mitsuhara Matsuri, there is also Anzu, her adopted daughter. And a few other adopted orphans, wandering visitors, and so on. It is a place of rest and relaxation, where people can enjoy a fresh-made meal, satisfying drink, and a warm bed if they wish to stay the night.
It is an unusually busy night at the Inn In The Mist. Matsuri is occupied with a mix of cooking, serving, managing payment, and making small talk with the customers. She smiles, and does all the things the hostess of an inn is expected to. While most of the customers are regulars (or as regular as they can be for an inn out in the middle of the woods), wood cutters, trappers, traveling merchants, and the like, there are some more unusual customers. One group of such is seated together at a table. A trio of shinobi, dressed in concealing attire. They don't appear to be from Konohagakure, but they give off the subtle air of those trained as ninja, even if they may be trying to pass themselves off as simple wanderers.
They've been keeping to themselves, and keeping quiet. And the fact they bear no indications of allegiance to a particular Village is perhaps reason to be concerned for those who can identify them for what they are. After all, Hidden Leaf ninja have little reason to hide who they are if they are on reputable business within the Land of Fire.
However, there may be another guest this evening, already accorded the best quarters in the inn due to his status, if he desires them. Where he is right now is yet to be seen.
Never one to willingly permit her adoptive mother to do all the work, Anzu is also helping around the inn, delivering dishes as they're prepared, doing her best to provide a bright smile and warm up any chilly travelers with her cheerful demeanor if the fire can not. She pauses to welcome one of the regulars back. "Oh, Takeyo-san! Welcome back! How is your daughter doing? Remember you promised to bring her by some time!"
Minor talk like that from the pale-skinned, dark-haired, yellow-eyed girl in her nice little inn keeper's assistant kimono. She acts younger than she is, but that's somewhat to be expected of someone who has forgotten most of their life. It's honestly amazing she's managed to recover as much as she has in only a few years. Though most here wouldn't know the half of it. After all, Matsuri has recently resumed Anzu's shinobi training to make sure she's able to defend herself. So the unassuming, if exotic-looking, teenager is actually beyond a normal human in various ways!
And yet here she is, waitressing tables and trying to cheer up men who have been away from their homes for far too long, to remind them of the families they have to go back to when their work season is finally done.
She stops to make sure the mysterious ninja group are satisfied with their drinks, not really clueing into who they are. Or if she knows, not showing it. "Good evening, gentlemen! Is there anything else I can get for you?" she asks with a smile, serving plate flat against her belly as she looks between the trio expectantly.
The reason for a rather important figure visiting would not have been fully revealed yet, but one might assume it has something to do with the arrangements he and Matsuri made some time ago for an orphanage to be built in Tea Country. Being that the Daimyo only requested a single room and is coming without a guard at his side likely means there is more to what's going on than just good news regarding that. What does he keep secret from his personal guard but will perhaps recruit others to assist in?
They likely won't have to wait too long to find out as the suit-clad daimyo steps into the inn and looks around. Despite a serious look deep in his eyes if one cares to look, Shuuren's demeanor is as calm and cool as ever. There is even a gentle smile as he enters the area where Matsuri and Anzu are currently serving guests. Were one a Sensor, they might detect a faint pulse of chakra from him that means he has likely used a Sensor jutsu himself to get a read on those in the inn as his eyes scan them over, probably getting a read for who's a shinobi and who's not as well as their medical conditions in case someone here might need his help.
Then he blinks as he catches Anzu's scent and looks her over for a moment in thought. He breaks his gaze from her to look to where Matsuri is, lifting a hand to wave and wait for her to invite him to sit or whatever she'd like him to do while they wait until she's not swamped to talk.
Takeyo rubs the back of his head bashfully, and says, "I know, I know. It's just hard to convince my wife to bring her all the way out here." Likewise, the other regulars and even the new customers respond favorably or at least neutrally to Anzu's attempts at inspiring good will. No one seems to have any problems. Except for the ninja at the table. Matsuri seems unaware of Shuuren's sensory scan of the inn, as do the trio of ninja.
Though one of them seems to react… But perhaps not to Shuuren. When he sees Anzu, he narrows his eyes at her. Once the ninja say they don't need anything, even if Anzu departs, that one guy keeps looking after her suspiciously. The moment they have some privacy, he says to his companions, "I definitely recognize her from somewhere."
One of the others says, "Nani? Isn't she a bit young to be one of your past girlfriends?"
"Idiot." the first ninja responds quietly, unwilling to be distracted by taunts as he digs into his cloak. "I mean in my Bingo Book."
The third guy, their leader, seems to be keeping his cool and remaining quiet, but the second guy seems incredulous. "What, seriously? At an inn like this?"
The first one flips through the pages swiftly until he arrives at the entry. "Here. Hebisuuhai Anzu. Went missing three years ago after killing a Genin. Fled pursuers and escaped. Doesn't she look familiar to you?" He points to a finger of a girl who looks just like Anzu might have looked three years ago, though with a much more serious, lightless-eyed expression than the smiles THIS Anzu has been showing.
The second guy looks at the photo and then glances over his shoulder. "That definitely looks like her." Then he turns to their leader and says, "What should we do?"
But their leader just calmly lifts his glass to his lips and drinks his tea without responding. The first ninja hisses angrily, "Oi! We can't just leave it like this, can we? She murdered a Genin!"
The leader puts down his glass and says, "Calm down. We're not going to do anything right now. This isn't the time or place."
Then he looks in the direction of Shuuren without actually turning his head to face him, seemingly aware that the man just entered. Though what he knows beyond that is unclear. Maybe he just recognizes someone in a fancy suit in the middle of a forest for what it is: Weird and suspicious.
Matsuri, for her part, spots Shuuren, and bows her head to him in greeting, not boorishly calling out across the room and drawing attention to him or anything. Though he could have dressed a bit more inconspicuously if his intent was to be incognito. She'll wait for him to be seated before coming over to him. Truth be told, she'd begun training Anzu so that she could make the trip back to Tea to discuss the orphanage and leave the inn in her adopted daughter's hands. But with the anxiety Anzu felt over that responsibility, and the fear Matsuri felt over leaving her alone here, it was determined maybe she should delay her travel plans until she had some other trustworthy and strong individuals to take care of things and make sure no marauders burned the place down.
Though Shuuren might have had his own reasons for coming beyond convenience for a worrying mother.
Anzu appears to be completely oblivious to the goings-on. She isn't going to force friendly interaction and small talk on customers who are content with their service already. Instead she moves to the kitchen to see if anything else needs to be delivered, though turns when a new arrival comes in through the doors. She bows and says, "Thank you for coming! I'll be with you shortly! Please choose your seat!"
Then she's off to pick up trays of food, unaware of what she might smell like or who may have identified her in a bingo book. She wouldn't know the first thing about that. And neither would her adoptive mother, because neither of them knows who Anzu was before she was found half-dead in the forest without any memories, and only an enormous white snake coiled around her to protect her.
Shuuren might come as something other than himself were he worried about needing to be incognito. But, with the cover of coming to talk about the orphanage being built, there is little need for him to hide his presence here. Really, as far as anyone could tell, the daimyo simply came to check out an acquaintance's business and take a small vacation so he can relax somewhere away from the palace.
With a nod in return to Matsuri, he makes his way to a table in a corner of the room and sits down. Though he seems rather relaxed still, he would glance toward the men as they discuss the yellow-eyed girl… confirming his suspicions about her and that she is in danger outside the inn. At least they have the good sense to avoid attacking here in here, but they could become a problem if they try and come for her later with certain plans he has if she and Matsuri agree to go along with it.
Looking around as if simply checking out the dining area of the inn, he waits patiebtly for Matsuri to approach. Any tension or dark thoughts wouldn't be reflected on his face, as he seems quite relaxed and simply interested in the establishment as a businessman who is involved in many different ventures quite often. A lingering glance might be caught toward Anzu, but it's quite brief enough that he could simply have been looking into the room she entered.
Of course, these shinobi might recognize him for other reasons and be expecting something from him as to why he's here. After all, Shuuren himself was once a Jounin of Kumogakure that walked away from shinobi life in favor of the life of a businessman due to war tension between the villages that would have limited the places he could go had he remained part of Kumogakure.
The ninja, whether they recognize Shuuren or not, definitely eye him somewhat when their leader indicates they should stop talking on account of his arrival. Matsuri is still dealing with customers so can't come over to the Daimyou right then, but she hopes he understands that she can't drop everything just for a V.I.P. She has a business to run too.
The trio of apparently Kumogakure ninja nod to each other and get up to leave, but the first guy who spoke up about the Bingo Book is gritting his teeth. He doesn't seem happy about leaving a missing-nin roaming free.
And honestly, Anzu wasn't known for being stronger than a Genin herself. So with three ninja versus one, it should be easy to take care of her, right? He stomps over to Anzu and tries to grab her by her hair, kunai drawn, and says, "There's no way I'm leaving a traitor here and letting her slip away again! This is our Village's business! Anyone who doesn't like it can look away!"
Matsuri hears the yelling, and turns her attention with concern towards whatever is going on, but can't quite make it out from her angle. "Anzu-chan?" she calls out concernedly.
The cloud ninja's companions, looking not only all around the inn at the customers, but also at Shuuren specifically, try to stop their comrade. "Not right now, idiot! This isn't the place!"
Anzu has just set down a bowl of hot soup for a customer when she becomes aware of the sound of stomping foot steps approaching her. She turns, an expression of innocent confusion on her face as the man comes up to her and then grabs her by her hair. She lets out a noise of pain grabbing at the hand ineffectually, either not as strong of a ninja as her attacker or just… Not a ninja. Her Chakra levels definitely would have seemed elevated to Shuuren when he scanned before, but only to the degree of a Chuunin, and it doesn't seem she's particularly well-trained. Her Chakra is rough and undeveloped.
And she's certainly showing no signs of any particular power right now as a kunai it put to her throat. "AAAH! What's going on!? Okaa-san! Somebody! Help!" she calls out, struggling to pull away, but just causing more pain in her scalp.
It seems the guy's comrades are trying to stop him. But as Anzu's struggles grow more frantic, her cries more desperate, her Chakra levels continue to rise in response to her emotional distress.
And upstairs, in Anzu's room, a very large white snake opens his old, tired eyes in response to feeling that Chakra, and tastes the air with a long, forked tongue.
"Such a lack of tact," the smooth voice of the daimyo rings out as he vanishes, seeming to come from all around almost just before he reappears behind the man and places a hand on his shoulder. "I suggest you follow your orders, son. This girl may have a history, but right now you are a guest in this establishment and are making yourself and your village look foolish."
His eyes cut briefly to the man that seems to be the leader among the trio and then to the girl before looking back to the one holding Anzu's hair. "I'm going to ask you once to release her and go on about your business. I will cover your tab for your service here." Despite his calmness, there is a hint of something in his voice that suggests this shinobi does not want to make Shuuren have to make his request a second time. He was, after all, a Jounin when he was part of Kumogakure. Does this guy want to take a chance on the quite slim possibility that a former Jounin ever actually stopped getting stronger?
Tensions increase, the other regulars standing up and yelling the ninja down. "Hey! What are you doing to Anzu-chan, you ****!" "Who do you think you are coming in here like this and attacking Matsuri-san's daughter?" "You better let her go if you know what's good for you!" Some have mining picks or wood-cutting axes or knives. Most have no weapons at all, just their fists and determination to protect a family that has been there for them and supported them with both service and smiles.
Then Shuuren steps in, and though the second of the Kumo team was reaching into his own cloak, the man attacking the Missing-Ninja at least lets go of Anzu's hair.
Matsuri, now fully aware of the situation, yells out, "Anzu-chan!" and comes running over with great swiftness for a woman of her apparent age and top-heavy build, spurred on by motherly instinct and adrenaline so that she doesn't even remember how she got over to Anzu. She's just there suddenly, and takes her daughter in her arms, putting herself between Anzu and the attacker's blade. She glares at the man, as she holds Anzu's to her chest, one hand on the younger woman's head to shield her from any more hair-grabbing attempts.
The leader looks to Shuuren without saying anything, clearly the coolest head among the three ninja in his group. Though just about anyone would have to be. "Put away your weapon. We're leaving." he tells his subordinate.
The man with the kunai puts the weapon away with a brief curse and stomps across the room, keeping an eye on the former Jounin. He may not realize who Shuuren is right now, but it will no doubt be explained to him very promptly when he's out of here.
The leader of the Kumogaku team just says, "Sorry for the trouble, miss." Then he looks to Shuuren and adds on with an inclination of his head, "Daimyou Nagamura-dono." Then he turns and goes out the door his subordinates already departed through.
Matsuri watches to make sure they're gone. Before whispering to Anzu, "It's okay, Anzu-chan. It's okay now. They're gone now." Then she rubs her cheek on Anzu's head and strokes her back. "You don't have to do anything. Shuuren-sama has taken care of it. Just calm down."
'Don't have to do anything'? What is Matsuri referring to? Wasn't Anzu a helpless victim?
Anzu is probably less equipped to have done anything than Shuuren by many miles in terms of ability. But the fact remains that as she is held close, protectively, it is partially for Anzu's protection and partially for her attackers. In her panic induced state, her eyes have dialiated to vertical slits, a pair of small sharp fangs protrude from her upper row of teeth, and her Chakra levels are considerably above the underdeveloped level that Shuuren detected upon first entering. They're closer to Jounin level.
That doesn't mean she knows how to use them, but it means there's a lot of hidden potential there, and that, whether she could have actually defended herself or not, things could have become much messier if she'd actually tried to fight back.
But as she calms down, tears run down her cheeks, and she seems to return to her 'normal' self, clutching at her mom's kimono and hugging her tight as she cries. She has no idea what they were talking about or what they wanted from her or what 'history' she has. This is the first violence she has seen since waking up here in the inn years ago, and she doesn't know what she did to deserve it.
But she's glad that she didn't have to 'do' anything. She feels like that would have been bad for everyone.
Shuuren's eyes remain locked on the man until Anzu is no longer threatened with the blade. When it is finally dropped, he looks over to the leader of the team and nods to greet him in return. To be certain the team actually leaves, he would send out another pulse of chakra to track their movements until they're gone.
With them at least out of the inn, he looks to Matsuri and Anzu and smiles. "The danger has passed." He makes no comment on the physical changes she briefly goes through, not even seeming to actually be surprised by them. It's more intriguing than anything to him that one can possess such strength but seemingly be unaware of how to use it properly. Then again it's not much different than what Jinchuuriki go through.
Clasping his hands behind his back, he says, "We should speak when you're up to it, but you don't have to push yourself on my account. I do think I can help you, though, and that you have some potential you may not realize you have."
The men do indeed seem to be heading away from the inn and out into the forest, though they may be intending to stop just far enough away not to be easily spotted and then keep an eye out for a chance to capture or eliminate the missing-nin. That isn't something they should just leave alone, after all.
The customers still seem resentful of the actions of those men, and concerned about the safety of the only two women around. All those protective instincts and chivalry, even if misplaced, shows that these are a bunch of good guys who care about Matsuri and Anzu as though they were family. Takeyo comes over and bends down to ask, "Are you okay, Matsuri-san? Anzu-chan?"
Another man glares off in the direction the ninja went and says, "Honestly, who did those creeps think they were? Just because we're so far away from the Hidden Leaf, they think they can do whatever they like?"
A third thanks Shuuren for stepping in when he did, and others voice similar sentiments, but as Shuuren begins talking about potential, Matsuri raises her voice to talk over him. "Everyone! It's fine. We're safe and unharmed. I doubt those men will be back anytime soon. Please don't let this disrupt your evening. Thank you all, though. You're why we can keep running this inn safely way out here." She smiles kindly to them, and the men bashfully and proudly sit down, and resume a more friendly atmosphere, glad to have been of use.
Even though Matsuri and Anzu probably would have stood a better chance against ninja than all of the customers put together. But Matsuri doesn't want it known what she or her daughter can do. The fact those men seemingly knew of Anzu though… That's concerning. And Matsuri's mind is already buzzing with things she needs to ask Shuuren in private. "Thank you, Shuuren-sama. Your efforts are appreciated. Anzu-chan, can you show Shuuren-sama to his room? I'll take care of the other customers." She'd rather not leave Anzu alone with someone she barely knows right now, but Shuuren is known as a medic, as far as Matsuri is aware from news she has heard in the past, and maybe he can make sure Anzu is okay. Matsuri, too, is trained in medicine, but she has customers to attend to.
Anzu takes the time to get control of herself again, to wipe her eyes, and smile at the customers, glad to have so many people around to protect her. She'd much rather stay near her mother right now than show Shuuren up to his room. Even if he stepped in to help protect her, she doesn't know him. She'd much rather familiarity at the moment. But she also has a job to do, so she takes in a shuddering breath as she calms herself, and smiles and bows to Shuuren. "Thank you again. Please come this way, and I'll show you to your room." She's somewhat perplexed by the mention of 'potential' that Matsuri seemed so keen to keep from being discussed openly in front of the others.
Is Shuuren a ninja too? Can he tell that she has been training with her mom lately? She's surprised that she has made enough progress for anyone to tell. She certainly can't when she looks in the mirror.
She leads Shuuren up stairs, assuming he follows, and to their largest and fanciest room. Which probably is nowhere near as fancy as Shuuren is used to, given it's a rather old-fashioned Japanese-style inn out in the middle of the woods, but it's clean, well-lit with lanterns most of the time, and fairly well-regulated air-wise considering the walls are mostly paper and wood, and they have no central air conditioning or heating. Nor, obviously, electricity.
"Um, thank you again… Shuuren-sama, was it?" Anzu says hesitantly after they arrive outside Shuuren's room, and she has opened the door for him, lantern in one hand, and bowing her head. "I'm Anzu. Thank you for protecting me. I'm glad to have so many people able to keep us safe." She's still shaken up by what happened, but her scalp is already nearly pain-free. It's mainly just the place she thought was safe being violated by dangerous people that has her shaken. What if they come back, after all?
"And… Eeto… What did you mean by… 'Potential'? In what way can you help me?"
Noting where those men stop, Shuuren would briefly furrow his brows in thought. It seems they don't know it's best to walk away when he tells them to. Perhaps he won't get much sleep tonight if he'll need to keep an eye out for them, but that is of little concern. Sleepless nights are par for the course for him.
"My pleasure," he says with a nod to Matsuri before he would turn to follow Anzu up to his room. As he enters he looks around for a moment before returning his gaze to Anzu. The room may not be what he's used to as daimyo, but he spent much of his life on the road as a businessman. Staying in places that are more humble than where he normally sleeps isn't foreign. Really there's something nice about getting back to simpler things.
"You're quite welcome," he says with a smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you." At her next inquiry, he glances out the door then back to her before saying, "Perhaps we should wait for your mother to have that conversation."
After Matsuri has made sure everyone has settled down, Anzu has come back downstairs and helped attend to the customers, and the people who are staying the night have been shown to their rooms and those who are not been shown out the door with food in their bellies, eventually the trio will find themselves in the same location once again. Whether that is downstairs, or in Shuuren's room, or wherever.
Anzu hesitates, and then nods to Shuuren's words. That makes sense. She bows and says, "Later this evening then. Please let me know if you need anything. I will come back up to see whether you would like dinner shortly, after you've had a chance to settle in." Then she goes back downstairs and attends to the rest of her duties, until it is much later in the evening, the inn is quiet, and it's just the three of them.
Shuuren nods to Anzu and then would go to settle in. This should give some time for tensions to settle after the commotion and for him to have time to see if those shinobi move away or seem to be setting up for another attack. He briefly considers discretely chasing them off while Matsuri and Anzu are busy, but that might risk things diplomatically if he isn't careful.
Once things have settled down, he would make his way back downstairs and find a place to settle in and wait for the two to be ready to speak privately. Being that he is a businessman himself, he is quite patient in letting them take care of their customers first. Plus it's given him time to relax and check the place out a bit.
They're downstairs, in the dining area. Aside from a single lantern at the table the three of them sit at, there isn't much other lighting. Maybe moon light shining through the windows and such. Matsuri is seated and waiting for Anzu to bring Shuuren's dinner out for him, which is prepared and waiting in the kitchen.
They likely would have already spoken on the matter of the orphanage while waiting, or maybe not and they're just waiting for Shuurne to broach the subject. He came here for a reason after all. Time to find out what that is.
Anzu emerges from the kitchen, serving platter in hand, with bowls and plates balanced atop it. She sets them out for Shuuren, keeping her voice down due other guests being asleep as she presents them. "Here is your dinner, Nagamura-dono. I hope it is to your liking!" She then sits down with Matsuri and Shuuren and waits to find out what all this is about.
She does spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the fire within the lantern though. For some reason, things in motion just fascinate her.
Talk about the orphanage would be simple, though what he made of the idea was far from a simple orphanage. He raised up a huge academy within the capitol of Tea Country that functions both as an orphanage and as a school for orphans and the youth of the country to learn. Those who enroll have the option of simply taking academic studies or learning shinobi skills as well. It's perhaps the largest scale project of its kind outside the Hidden Villages and possibly the first of its kind.
As Anzu arrives with his food, Shuuren smiles up at her and nods. "It looks and smells lovely. Thank you, Anzu-san." He takes a sip of his drink then a few bites of his food before looking between them to start the next conversation. "So, Anzu-san… I can't tell for certain without a more thorough diagnostic of your condition, but… You have memory issues, correct?" He would wait a moment before saying, "I know this is likely a terrible thing to learn of who you are, but, as a former member of the village those men were from, I can affirm that you are who they say you are, that being a member of the Hebisuuhai Clan, and that you are wanted in Kumogakure."
He takes another sip of his drink then to give a pause for her to process that information before settling the glass down again and speaking. "That being said, you may relax. You are in no danger from me. I don't know what your circumstances are that led to your incident, but I'm sure there is a side to it that you are unable to recall due to your condition. In fact, I would like to offer to speak to Kumogakure on your behalf to call off the hunt for you for now. The condition I would tell them is that I will help you recover your memories so that you can one day present your case to them to have a fair chance."
After another pause, he continues, "And there is another offer I'd like to make to help you reach levels as a shinobi most people can't dream of attaining. You see, your clan and I have something in common…" He closes his eyes for a moment then before opening them again to reveal that his gentle greenish blue eyes are actually something of a farce as they are replaced by slit-pupiled eyes similar to those she presented earlier. "… But I am no Hebisuuhai. What I am is something most shinobi aren't even aware is real… I am a summoner of snakes with a power called Sage Mode. This is actually part of why I came to speak with your mother. There is a war going on in the world of summoned creatures, and I wanted to know if she knew anyone that might be a good fit to train to join forces with my side. Now that I've seen a glimpse of your true chakra level and your potential with your own clan's juts, with the proper training, I believe you can attain this kind of power as well. The road will not be easy, and it is not without risk, but I will do my best to guide you. I simply need to know if you are interested."