Date: January 8, 2012
After three months of silence from the Ghoul of the Desert after being encountered by Team 01 of Sunagakure, dark events begin to unfold in the Hidden Sand's hospital. At the same time, a missing recordskeeper appears to warn a Councilwoman with the dire words that, "everyone is going to die…" He warns the Councilmember to "run away." But how can she when people are in trouble?
Poster's note: Profanity filtered in obvious places.
"Blood Red Sandman - Run Away"
Tenrai Hospital - Sunagakure
There's a saying that those in the deserts of the Land of Wind may use from time to time. Perhaps they do not always speak it out loud, but it's apparent in their way of life, their attitudes towards things… 'You are born, life is hard, and then you die'. It basically means, 'Bad things happen to everyone.' Admittedly, the desert is a harsher place to make a living than many other environments, and thus those who are born and die here without having ever seen any other way to live are somewhat justified in their 'survivalist' mentality. But even in a place as difficult as this, simple joys can be had. For the wealthy, more extravagant pleasures may be afforded, especially in relation to what others around them have.
One of the benefits of living in a Hidden Village such as Sunagakure, a major military powerhouse that (even though it has yet to be fully tested in an extended war campaign WITHOUT any backing of any kind) can control the local economy more or less as it desires with its ninja forces provided they do not openly defy the Wind Daimyou nor get discovered working against his interests, is that they have access to actual medical facilities. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but one must keep in mind that most places in the Land of Wind have nothing to use for healing of any kind. Usually, the best one can do on one's own is to tear up some dirty cloth of some kind for bandages. If one is LUCKY then there may be someone around with sufficient knowledge of medicine to produce an herbal remedy or perhaps even perform surgery. Most people (even in the better-off villages and some of the occasional towns) has minimal access to such luxuries as medical aid or health care. Sunagakure is home to not just a major intelligence network that spans the continent, but also is led by one of the most brilliant scientific minds in decades.
The Kazekage has modernized his Village's hospital to the best of his abilities and the Village's resources. This was especially important for the Chuunin Exams, so that all the foreigners have proper care. However, something unfortunate is about to happen that may put a bit of a damper on any festive mood in the Hidden Sand. It is afternoon, and edging towards evening gradually, but the sun is still firmly in the sky and beating down on everyone and everything with its endless fury. The hospital has patients, medical aids, nurses, doctors, full-fledged Medic-Nin, and a few dead bodies in the morgue that are presently… 'Displaced'. The medical staff are at first confused by the missing corpses, then aggravated by apparently someone moving these dead people when they shouldn't have been moved. However, before anything can really be done about it, the staff find the doors to the underground morgue mysteriously barricaded from the hall outside. That's weird and worrying. Then one of the nurses notices that one darkened corner of the room has what appears to be a HOLE in the mix of masonry and packed soil… A hole leading down quite aways, like a… Tunnel? A tunnel that penetrates UPWARDS into the room from beneath hardened floor tiles?
Then the lights in the morgue flicker. They flicker again and go out. It'll be a few moments of nervous tension and fearful attempts to restore the lights before anyone outside the room would have a way of knowing something is wrong. Precious seconds wasted.
Despite it being day time, Keiji finds himself entering the hospital. It was nice to be inside and get away from that god forsaken ball of hell that sat so high in the sky. As his eyes adjust back to the level of light inside, he approaches the counter and hands the receptionist there a box. "I was asked to deliver this. There should be a name tag on it."
This had been part of Keiji's preperation for the Chuunin Exams. He was unsure exactly how much of it he would be able to do during the night time hours. Due to his natural disadvantage during the day, the boy figured he should spend some time becoming 'use' to the light. He was unsure what the package was. He had just been given it by an assistant to Kuoroke. 'That slave driver.' the boy thought to himself. He knew he better go right away to make the delivery.
"I cannot leave the desk. You will have to take this down to the doctor." The elderly receptionist said in a lazy tone.
"Okay…." is all Keiji replied as the lady began to point out directions. He was looking to go down the hall and just past the entrance to the morgue. Door on the right.
Touma had made the decision to visit Sunagakure for the upcoming Examinations that were to take place there. He had been to each of the former tournaments held and this one sounded like a good way to see some action. After his trek across the sands of the Land of Wind, only the second time he had done it in his life, Touma found himself a little dehydrated. Ending up in a bed for a day to replenish his liquids, the wandering young man had no qualms over 'being pampered' for a day. He was admitted to the hospital yesterday, meaning his time of rest and relaxation was nearing an end.
Sitting up on the side of his former bed, he began to pack up a few of his things before he was asked to leave. A nurse walks into the room and offers him a coy smile, the sound of her approaching footsteps causing him to tilt his head up to see who was there.
"Time for me to leave? I was having such a relaxing time.." he says to the nurse with a smile, causing her to stutter a bit at having caused him such misfortune with her arrival.
Itami returned to the hospital, needing some ointment for the scars she received in training with another shinobi. The scars have since gone down, but a few might still itch from time to time depending on how deep they were and other such things. She wouldn't need to be here long, but she'd probably have to wait a bit until other matters were taken care of. Upon arriving in the lobby, she nodded her head to reception in greeting as well as to others that may have been around here.
While she waited, she decided to use the last of her current ointment to use on 'important' scars or rather, those causing her the most irritation. She could deal with the others, even though their collective problems made things a bit more uncomfortable to her, but the bigger ones made up the most of the discomfort. Seems this place is busy as always…
As Keiji passes by the morgue, headed to the door on the right side of the same hallway that said room is located in, he may well notice the odd sight of a number of boxes, an up-ended gurney, and some other seemingly random hospital-appropriate items all heaped in front of the swinging doors that seperate the hall from the 'cold storage' for the deceased while the families, friends, and so forth of said deceased wait for the funeral arrangements to be done, or whatever people out here do. Perhaps there was an accident and some stuff fell over? Maybe two people bumped into each other and knocked their respective carried loads on the floor? But that doesn't seem right either. It's more like anything that was nearby the morgue entryway, even if a dozen feet away, has been haphazardly thrown together and then just… Left there. There's no one around picking it up, no sign of anyone even being aware that anything is wrong.
Weird? Absolutely. But it's unlikely that Keiji is a detective in addition to a ninja, and he might just not think much of it, or glance over it and decide it's not his business, or not realize there could be something potentially suspicious happening. The shallow mound of sand that all of the random 'medical stuff' is resting upon, however, should be enough to alert all but the most dim-witted that something is up. The sand is scattered across the hallway floor all over, crunching underfoot in halls that are otherwise pristine in every other visible direction. Even the reception room, where people are tracking in dust and dirt and sand with abandon, looked cleaner than this.
Very weird. Very suspicious. But perhaps the thing most likely to draw attention, even if everything else is studiously ignored, is that peculiar… Odor. At first just a faint whiff of it, unidentified, but soon becoming the pungent and unmistakble stench of ROT. It quickly spreads throughout the hall, stinking it up rather badly. Did someone break the septic system or something? No. Not at all. But as much as anyone is likely to be able to 'track' the scent of death, it DOES appear to be coming from the barricaded morgue…
A nurse and a patient in the recovery section of the hospital are having a polite and friendly interaction. The patient, Touma, is preparing to depart to make room for others. The nurse is checking in on the patient and unintentionally speeding along the latter's departure with her mere presence. For a Village in the middle of what most foreigners consider to be a lifeless, nearly-uninhabitable, barren, wasteland of a desert doesn't seem to be lacking for respectful and considerate human beings, at least. Even as resources may be scarce, those that are provided to others are done so with cordiality and the sense that being afforded these gifts is an honor rather than something being done reluctantly or out of mere necessity.
However, regardless of how long this interaction goes on between Touma and the nurse, eventually something unpleasant will attempt to intrude upon whatever other atmosphere may be in place between treatment provider and patient. That unpleasant something is a rather nasty smell. It is, infact, a smell that is only matched in horrendousness by a certain location in the Land of Wind that was once a beautiful landmark known as the Painted Cliffs and has since been rendered a toxic, polluted, utterly-ruined site of a ninja battle that has been over for several months now. However, the toxins are not the result of the ninja battle.
It is possible that foreigners who happened to make their ways across the desert without the aid of local guides to urge them AWAY from the Painted Cliffs may have gotten close enough to be exposed to the foul stench of death, poison, and rotten earth. Perhaps they may even have gotten close enough to see the clean-up crews composed of both ninja from Sunagakure and more conventional 'hazardous materials' handlers from the capital city of the Land of Wind. These foreigners would have swiftly been directed away from the befouled location and warned of the dangers inherent to the place. However, with or without a guide and with or without a close encounter with a lethal miasma of decay, any number of outside visitors may have heard the story of a certain MONSTER…
Many countries and cultures have their own local or regional myths, stories, and monstrous creatures they believe exist. The Land of Wind is no different. However, the most feared of all monsters in the entire country is known as 'The Ghoul of the Desert', and all stories seem to tie back to the same root concept, the same historical accounts, the same themes and details that are so consistent between tellers that even skeptical listeners may begin to wonder if there's any truth to it…
The tales of an undead monster that roams the desert, stalking the living, and EATING them. It first appeared during the tail-end of the Clan Wars, more than two decades ago. There have been other sightings since then, but no official acknowledgement has come, not even to deny the stories. But when a team of two Jounin and one Chuunin barely made it back from a failed mission alive because they met the Ghoul face-to-face, flesh to withered flesh… Well, the silence of the Daimyou would not dissuade the genuine terror of the people any longer. Not that it ever had. Many children have grown up hearing stories about the Ghoul, and many adults who once were children heard the same. There is a deep-seated FEAR of this particular mythical monster in most denizens of the Land of Wind.
It might be hard to grasp by foreigners, but the fact that the Painted Cliffs are now scarred and toxic earth mixed with corroded stone, and acidic pools of the very essence of necrosis was revealed to be due to the actions of a creature that quite a few had desperately hoped was JUST A STORY and yet now was confirmed to be real is something to think about. Doubly so for the Bingobook bounty by Sunagakure that acknowledges the creature's existence.
So what does this have to do with Touma and a nurse? Well, the smell of rot that seeps into the room from the halls, and continues to work its way throughout the hospital grounds until it is quite impossible to ignore is a harbinger of things to come that only Land of Wind natives would quickly understand. Perhaps the nurse reacts with fear. Perhaps not. But when the power in other parts of the hospital appears to be cut, causing electric lights and life-support devices to crackle and shut off, or simply darken and cease their beeping, knowledge of real-life monsters may suddenly be a bit less relevant next to the URGENCY of the situation…
The reception area has people, local and not, waiting to be seen or waiting for a friend or relative or who-knows-what to complete treatment and rejoin those sitting about in chairs and so on. Those who recognize Watanabe Itami, aka 'Councilwoman Watanabe', generally either offer her respectful acknowledgements or if they are more friendly with her they may offer friendly greetings. Itami has worked hard to help the people. Maybe they do not know all of what she gets up to, being a ninja and all, but she has been public enough in her support of the civilian population of the Land of Wind in general, and the villages of Sunagakure specifically, that very few would doubt her motives or integrity. Of those few, none speak such views out loud.
There is one person who Itami has worked with before in one capacity or another, spoken to occasionally, and likely knows quite well is rather vital to the workings of the records system at the Kazekage Administration Dome. She knows him as Hone Nai. He is a quiet, calm, and self-controlled man who has been working with the Kazekage since before the very IDEA of Sunagakure existed in Kokoroe Sousa's mind. He has made important connections in information routinely filed that would have slipped by most others and not been noticed for months or years, if ever. He investigated the shutting down of an orphanage under suspicious circumstances of his own accord. He stopped traitors of the Wind Path of the Sasaki from stealing the remains of Sunagakure's honored dead. He notified the Kazekage and the Council of the potential invasion from that 'other world' where the land was locked in constant winter and ruled by the walking dead. He has fought alongside Sunagakure's Jinchuuriki, and two other of the Village's most accomplished and renowned Jounin, as well as Maneshi Shemri, the mother-with-a-job-as-a-ninja who was also a member of Team 01. He helped subdue an ancient, deep sea horror in the Land of the Sea with that same ninja team. And of course, with his quick thinking, Nai stopped the reanimated dead that a certain masked man called into being from inflicting further casualties on the Hidden Sand during the siege of the Village.
Truly, a rather impressive resume for such an unassuming, unimposing, withdrawn, and seemingly 'unspecial' individual. He went missing more than three months ago. As Itami stands in the reception area, it may thus be a surprise when a cloth-wrapped and rather light-weight hand attemps to touch the Councilwoman's shoulder very gently from behind, and that bandage-wrapped hand turns out to belong to the ever-hooded, ever-cloaked, ever-wrapped, and ever-goggle-wearing Head Records Keeper, Hone Nai.
Whatever expression he has is hidden behind the bandages that conceal his entire face and head. The lenses of his goggles are utterly black. How does he even see out of them? Well, Itami can probably see her own reflection in the lenses as Nai offers quietly in his characteristic rasping voice, "Watanabe-san, it is important that we speak outside. Please follow me." Then, the man moves to leave the building through the front doors and head out into the glaring sunlight. At the same time this is happening, that awful smell is pervading the reception area too. If Itami hesitates to follow for too long, or doesn't follow at all, she may soon find herself being choked by the smell alongside everyone else present. The lights die several seconds after that. Of course, if Itami is outside before then, she might not realize…
Though Keiji was not the smartest kid in all of Sunagakure, he was above average. His eyes turn towards the debris piled up infront of the door. He even noticed the sand crunching under his feet. Then came that horrendous smell. The boy raised a hand to cover his nose. Something was definitely wrong. Plus it seemed the cooler quit on the dead bodies. The boy moves back down the hall towards the receptionist desk. "Miss, there is…" then the lights go out.
"That stench is growing." the boy states. It seemed if the boy had heard the tails as a child, he paid little attention to them. Now that the lights were out, the boy was able to see even better in the dark. "Does the power usually go out?" he asks towards the receptionist. It seems he was trying to diagnose the danger and how to best solve it.
Touma continues his polite conversation with the nurse, assuring her she did nothing wrong by coming in to check on him and make sure he was ready to go. After calming her down a bit, he stands up and stretches out, reaching for the ceiling briefly before a satisfactory 'pop' sound puts everything back into place after resting for so long. Reaching down to grab his pack, Touma catches a whiff of something foul. Standing upright, he notices the nurse looking around the room with a concerned look on her face and takes a stealth sniff of his pits to make sure it wasn't him because hey, he had been in bed for a day without a shower. The nurse, being a native of the Land of Wind, looks noticeably concerned and Touma has to ask, "What is that smell? It's nothing good, I assure you. Is the morgue nearby?" He takes a peek outside the room only to be met by a large whiff of it. "Phew." Shirt goes up over mouth and nose as he almost gags at the smell. He moves over to the window to open it, a momentary breath of fresh air as he hops up to crouch in the frame, still waiting for the nurse to explain.
Itami, though she's been on the council for sometime, still has trouble with being greeted respectfully by people as she much prefers the friendly approach. She often thinks her position might sometimes incite fear more so than respect and she's not the type to bring down the hand of fate upon people, except only when its necessary. Even still, she greets them with the same amount of respect and or friendliness depending on the individuals, making sure to maintain a smile at all times. While waiting in the lobby, finishing up rubbing the ointment on her scars, she's treated to a tap on her shoulder. When she turns to face the individual, she's greeted by none other than Nai. It's a surprise, to say the least, since she hasn't seen or heard much out of him in a long time.
"Nai?" She questioned, but before saying more, it seems she was being summoned outside by him. She nodded, but added, "Give me a few moments. I need to make sure these wounds are accounted for…" She was doing a last run through to make sure she covered the wounds that were bothering her most. Those places that felt slick to the hand let her know that they'd been covered rather well. In the short time that she did this, a scent began to find its way into reception. It was…odd, to say the least, but at this time it was faint. As it continued to grow stronger, she began to grow curious and so, as she turned to walk outside, she focused chakra to her tongue before flicking it out of her mouth to figure out what was going on. It may have been disturbing for some to see a dark, forked tongue slip through her lips, but the scent that was making its way around the hospital was much stronger in that department. What she picked up from this was…unusual and it made her wary.
She'd eventually find herself outside, having only been a small distance away from Nai, now closing the gap between them. She didn't pay him much attention in that time, but she still had questions. "Nai-san…where have you been," she asked. "It's been a long time since I've seen you."
The smell is truly awful, as no one should need to be told by now unless they have no sense of smell at all or aren't breathing for some reason… Though if the latter is the case, then telling those individuals would scarcely produce any results. The dead don't care if things stink. They're dead. When Keiji comes out into the reception area, everyone is coughing or making noises or statements of disgust, covering noses — and then noses AND mouths — and so forth. Some are getting up from their seats, perhaps out of alarm, perhaps out of just not knowing what else to do, and perhaps out of fearful preparations to depart the hospital even if they still need treatment. The receptionist at the desk has, at some point, stopped responding to people. When the lights go out just as Keiji comes into that area of the hospital… Well, with his low-light vision, he can probably see quite clearly how the receptionist appears to be ASLEEP at her desk. Her neck is bent, her head hanging forward, hair draped around her face and concealing her features. Her arms rest loosely in her lap.
She's not speaking, moving, and if Keiji pays sufficient attention to such details amongst the rest of this bizarre activity, he may notice she is also not breathing. Some people are preparing to flee the hospital at this point, either because the stench is so awful that it's making people vomit, stagger around off-balance, or even begin to pass out, or because so many stories come to mind for Land of Wind natives… So many stories that, even if they didn't necessarily mention this PARTICULAR circumstance in Ghoul attacks, certainly seem to have associations with that foul monster.
Before anyone can open the doors, however, something happens.
Nai does not wait for Itami when he leaves through the doors. However, he IS waiting outside when she arrives. He looks the same as always. Slightly-hunched forward, wrapped in way too many layers, even for protection from the sun, sand, and wearing goggles that are either opaque on the outside and transparent or tinted on the inside, or simply just very, very dark. Once the Councilwoman speaks to him, asking where he has been and stating such an obvious fact as her having not seen him in a long time, he just continues to stand there for a moment, though not stationary. His head is turned first to his right (the west) and then to his left (the east), as though ensuring no one is around to see him. There are precious few individuals out and about right now, and those who are walking the streets or visible through curtained windows, and similar, are minding their own business and doing their best to stay cool. The Head Recordskeeper eventually focuses on Itami before him, with the hospital behind her.
In his rasping tone, he speaks a rather unexplanatory word as answer, "Underground." A moment later, perhaps surmising as most NORMAL people would that this is not a lot of information, he explains further, "I have been hiding, Watanabe-san. I have been hiding underground." A momentary pause follows this, but any possible reply that may be about to be given may be forestalled by Nai's further clarification. "I've been hiding in the Catacombs." That… Would give most people a bit of a surprise if they are even remotely familiar with the City that Sunagakure was BEFORE it became Sunagakure. The Catacombs are massive, labyrinthine, underground tunnels that stretch out beneath Sunagakure for miles and miles and miles. No one knows how deep they go, how much ground they cover, or similar. All that is known with any certainty is that the entrance to the Catacombs in Sunagakure is always guarded, always restricted to basically everyone except the Kazekage and MAYBE the Council, and no one really wants to go down there anyway.
The dead used to be kept down there. A plague had emerged during the Clan Wars, however, and more than a century and a half ago, the entire population of the City of the Sands was wiped out, along with the army of ninja that had been laying siege to the city.
The plague eventually vanished when it had no more carriers.
The dead, however, are probably still down there.
"There's something you should know, Watanabe-san," Nai begins speaking again into the possible silence or at least quiet, even as noises of distress, attempts to speak loudly that turn into extended couging fits, and so-on, may come from behind Itami, within the hospital. He seems to turn his head aside as though averting his gaze, but after several seconds, he speaks.
No other noises except for the growing clamor from inside the hospital, and whatever sounds of other people going about their day unaware of impending disaster may be in the background. Nai then turns his back on Itami and says, "Soon, everyone else will be too." A moment after that, he says, "I recommend running away now. But if you want to do more than prolong the inevitable, I also recommend you find someone strong. The strongest you can find, infact. You'll need someone like that if you want anyone to live."
The ground all around begins to shake and tremble more noticeably than the minute motions it had been undergoing before. Not another earthquake!? They had enough of those during the Siege! But this shaking is very localized… Infact…
Nai says one more thing, just loud enough to be heard as stone, sand, dirt, masonry, all begin to deform, crack, and move about. "I just wanted to see you one last time." Then Nai collapses, crumbles, and is no more. A pile of dirt upon the street.
That HAD been an Earth Clone… Controlled from where, exactly? Elemental Clones need line-of-sight or an otherwise exact knowledge of their location relative to the jutsu caster to be controlled and maintained. Further, the caster must be in relatively close range. The "real" Nai doesn't appear to be anywhere around… But the pile of dirt is… Being sucked into the ground. Like the unpaved road is slurping it up, nearly.
But something more attention-getting may be happening right behind Itami, as the earth itself seems to begin to SHOOT UPWARDS, forming into towering walls of densely packed dirt, stone tiles, boulders, and who-knows-what-else drawn from deep underground, and attempts to just SWALLOW UP the hospital! It engulfs the building rapidly, apparently trapping everyone inside the building!
This is not a good thing.
Keiji noticed his words were falling on deaf ears, or more unconcious ears. It has become apparent to him that this is no longer a normal situation. This is an attack. Then the earth begins to shake cracking the floors. "Great, not only does it smell like a pit of death, but now one is opening beneath it." Unable to leave the people behind, Keiji places his fingers together in a few earth seals to make earth clones. He nods at them and together the four of them grab people who are passed out.
Then it feels as though the entire building is moving. "****. Get going. Get out now." the boy yells to the clones. They all head towards the door. Keiji had only hoped when they got their, it would not be covered in earth.
Itami wasn't sure if she should be surprised. Considering how often he's out of the public eye, underground didn't seem like that much of a problem. More so, she has a certain sense of familiarity with being underground, so the news doesn't strike her as too odd, though there's a lingering sense of something in the air she can't place. "Hiding?" From what? Has he done something that she doesn't know about? She hummed softly. Then that object she sought after strikes her. "The catacombs?" Why there of all places? "Something I should know. I would think so, so what is it?" She was expecting to figure out the reason he was hiding. Instead, she was told that he was dead. "Dead?" More questions were turning up than answers now. The more this continues, the more confused she grows. "That isn't making much sense. You don't…well, maybe you do look dead. Physically, I…" Her voice trails off and she begins to grow defensive, evident of the way she folds her arms and seemingly straightens out.
"I don't think there's much humor in this if you're making a joke," she states to him in an unenthused tone. His words now begin to hold much more truth as the ground begins to shake. As soon as it does, she begins to look around as if expecting the winds to howl and sand to blow in any moment. She spins around to look back at Nai, but only sees that he's now crumbled to earth. An Earth Clone?! The heap that was left behind was beginning to be sucked back into the ground, but the rise of walls behind her as they pierced the ground and roared above her caught her attention instead. This was…definitely not a good thing.
Now she had to act quickly or else, these people were in terrible danger. It comes as no surprise that the village is put on alert and other shinobi begin to make their way to the area where the activity is concentrated. They're skilled enough and Itami shouldn't have to direct them on how to proceed. What she needs to do is find a way to get into the hospital. This place seems like a popular option for attacking. Naturally, though. Sigh.
This might be one of the few instances where it's okay to scare the locals as she doesn't think she has much of a choice in this matter. She wanted to go after Nai and find him, but not at the risk of these people potentially being killed. Considering that the catacombs spread far and wide underneath Suna, she doesn't doubt that some run beneath the hospital and should provide a decent escape route to get them out. Focusing her chakra, she eventually has enough to take form into her lizard form, causing people to freak out at such a sudden change. Yet, it had to be done. She scans the area for a few moments before placing her hands together into a few seals and taking a dive into the street, leaving a hole behind her.