Date: September 2, 2016
The enemies attack while Team 13 attempt to unseal the cave. Can they open it without being overwhelmed? Should they?
"Bloom and Grow - Pt. 5"
Land of Fire
TWO DAYS BEFORE THE INCIDENT…
Uzumaki Mihoshi is presently unlocking a complex seal defense with the aid of Rinoko by running through every single possible combination of elements and Yin/Yang Chakra ratios for each. Given the ratios range anywhere from 100:0 to 0:100 to 24.5:75.5 to WHATEVER, that she's going through them all so quickly despite the sheer volume of math involved is impressive. And Rinoko's ability to actually USE the five Elemental Chakra Natures in the form of seals is intrinsic to this process. Without her, Mihoshi wouldn't have the necessary Chakra Natures to manipulate.
It's a taxing, concentration-intensive process, and Mihoshi and Rinoko honestly just don't have time to spare being distracted by the fact the Team is surrounded. Nonon and Saori are up in a pair of trees. Suzu and Aru are keeping an eye out and identifying enemy locations. Tsugumi was planning to gather water and then flood the forest to drive the camouflaged enemies out of hiding, relyign on Nonon to get Saori to safety before the tidal wave hit.
But it takes time to gather that much water from the only relatively nearby river. Tsugumi can't produce water from her Chakra yet with her skill level. And that process has been interrupted as a man leaps down from the cliff above them, the one place Aru wasn't able to scan. He descends with the glare of the sun at his back, spinning a spear and preparing to drive it downwards into Tsugumi. And the mature kunoichi just keeps her hands in place, molding Chakra for her jutsu, though she sees the enemy coming and when his spear drives down through her chest, out her back, and into the ground…
The Tsugumi that is impaled there, bleeding and choking, fades away.
"Genjutsu, eh? Just what I'd expect from Uchiha Tsugumi!" the man compliment as he spins his spear around and glances over the semi-circle of kunoichi he's standing in the middle of. He has a lot of dull-gray, spikey hair, scars on his face, and seems to be in his 50s. But it doesn't look like he's slowed down at all in his old age, since he's ready take on everyone around him. Though, oddly, he's not taking any action against Rinoko or Mihoshi while they work.
Aru does a better job of identifying enemy locations than Suzu. The fact they're surrounded isn't good, but the best thing Suzuha can do is protect Rinoko and their Uzumaki ally. However, when some jerkface with a spear tries to dragoon her mother, Suzu breaks her attention away from their surroundings for a moment and focuses on him. She scowls deeply, her Sharingan glinting in the sunlight. Then she creates a fire clone suddenly, breathing out the flames that shape themselves into a Suzu duplicate. Suzu uses her own Fire Clone to launch her into the air, leaping off of the duplicate's cupped hands.
Then the Fire Clone charges at the enemy, while Suzu flashes through hand seals and breathes out a Great Fireball Technique, condensed as much as possible so as not to burn her allies with the backblast. But it's still dangerous to be using a jutsu like that in close range. She doesn't, however, spare her Fire Clone. It's a clone made out of fire. It's not conscious, and under her direction. So immolating it in the attack as it distracts the enemy is a valid strategy.
Really. No ethical concerns at all! Not like it's a Shadow Clone!
The fact that she and Mihoshi are not being attacked at the same time as the others is slightly perplexing. Rinoko furrows her brows a bit in thouoght, but she still has to focus on the task at hand. Beads of sweat pour down her forehead as she continues to use her seals to assist the Uzumaki woman. This is a task they can't fail at.
Then it occurs to her… that maybe it's one they SHOULD fail at if her thoughts are correct. "Mihoshi-sama… I think they want us to unlock these seals," she says as she glances toward Tsugumi's direction then back to their task. "If I had to guess, their plan is for us to do the work of unlocking what's behind these seals so they can then incapacitate or kill all of us and run away with the prize."
Then, of course, another thought occurs… For these people to know this location, either they followed without being detected by dojutsu, they knew where it was beforehand with some stolen or leaked intelligence, or… there is a mole in their group, specifically one that is not normally part of the group. Any of those is very plausible, and all three are bad, but the last option is significantly worse than the first two because it puts them in even more danger than they might think they are in.
Namikaze Nonon has a pair of kunai marked with Chakra-infused blood, ready to use to mark the enemy in turn if she gets the chance. But Saori seems to be oblivious to the danger. And then there's the sound of some man yelling, and stuff happening behind her. Nonon doesn't even turn around to face the danger. She can hear. And while that might not give all the details, the fact that Rinoko is still talking, and apparently to Mihoshi, is enough to know those two are alright. And the sound of the man remarking that Tsugumi used Genjutsu on him, and then the sound of flames tells her that Tsugumi is still alive, and that someone else, either Tsugumi or Suzu, just used Fire Style Ninjutsu. Because Aru can't use that, as far as Nonon knows.
She wants to help them, but until the enemy show themselves more fully, all she can do is stay in this tree and wait. She hasn't been detected yet, it seems, and neither as Saori. So they need to stay where they are, and wait until they are needed… As a counter-force to the ambushers in the woods, or as reinforcements for their allies.
She has to say this, though: Waiting while your friends are fighting for their lives is more painful than fighting for her own.
Saori is caught completely unawares by all that suddenly happens. Unlike Nonon, she does look behind her, catching sight of combat beginning, and a stranger attacking her team mates. She quickly runs through possible options in her head, as to what she can provide if she joined them. What kind of support can she give? Healing? No one is injured yet. Combat? Crowding more people into an area with two allies who need to focus doesn't seem productive, and there's little she can do if she remains at range that Nonon couldn't do better.
Hatake Saori looks across to Nonon. She looks her in the eyes. And she reads the situation in that glance. This isn't the only threat, and she's better off staying where she is for now. There's nothing either of them can do.
So she faces forwards, and tries to discern what the others have identified that she hasn't. She can at least mold some Chakra, so that if she DOES become needed, she'll be able to handle her responsibilities.
Aru is initially caught unawares by the attacker, having been straining herself to detect the enemies all around, not above or below. Range, rather than detail. It seems that, just like during her training, she missed one of the birds. When the guy drops down from above, she leaps away reflexively, and takes up a Juuken stance alongside Rinoko and Mihoshi. She hears Rinoko's concerns, and shares them. "That seems likely, Rinoko-sensei. But the alternative is to give up. If they're determined to get in, they may find some other way. And will you and Mihoshi-sama have the Chakra to do this again if we drive them off? Will we know if they're defeated for good if we only defeat a few?"
Aru shakes her head, short black hime-cut-styled hair flying, as her Byakugan pulses with even more Chakra. "I do not mean to second-guess or contradict you, Rinoko-sensei. But this location has been compromised. The mission objective is either to get the contents of the cave to a safe location, or destroy them. If extracting them is no longer viable… Should we not remove them from this world?" It's not like Aru to step in like this, or to push against a leader's decision. She may grumble sometimes, but she does as she is told to. This time, however, she feels she has to say something. She has to make clear the stakes. Just leaving them here isn't an option. If they can break the defenses, it's possible for someone else to.
And if these jutsu are valuable enough, eventually they will do just that.
Suzu's flames billow forth, filling the area nearby, and Aru worries for a moment she might need to unveil her new jutsu just to defend her team mate, and give away her lone trump card to the enemy when he isn't even attacking her. But Suzu's fire control seems to be adequate, and aside from some embers and some singed hairs, Aru, Rinoko, and Mihoshi appear to escape harm… But for how long?
The spear-wielding ninja turns his attention on Suzu as he engages him. "And Uchiha Suzuha… Daughter of Uchiha Tsugumi. You have promise as well, but you're not match for me!" he taunts as he blocks the Fire Clone's attack with his spear, but then Suzu is bombarding him from above with flames, engulfing her own Clone in them, and he has to spin his spear rapidly to try to disperse them. It almost works, the rotating movement being performed skillfully and spinning flames away from him, but the heat is too great, and Suzu's control too precise, and he finds himself the focal point for the barrage. He does take less damage than he would have otherwise, but he's just had his pride injured right after taunting a Genin about how she was no match for him.
Even mild burns are an insult to his ego.
Though his eyes narrow, his smile just becomes a bit more vicious instead of arrogant, and he leaps up to the cliff face above the cavern entrance they're working on. "So you've progressed a bit more than we'd heard from our last contact with your group." He looks down at Rinoko and Mihoshi, and then back to Suzu as she falls from the air. He braces himself, somehow managing to have all this dialogue before the younger Uchiha reaches the ground, and then launches off the cliff face, his spear's tip shrouded in Chakra dense enough to be visible as it sends strands of swirling air currents spiralling around it. "However… I stand by what I said. You're ten years too young to be fighting me!"
He seems to be ignoring Aru, Rinoko, and Mihoshi for now. If he knows about Nonon and Saori, he isn't showing it. And he seems to have forgotten that Tsugumi is somewhere in the area, hidden.
Could that be his downfall? If not, his attack is being launched with enough force to blow up the ground where the spear hits, and is probably not great to get hit with.
As one of their own is clearly engagd in combat, the ambush teams move in closer and closer. Eventually, some of them are within range for both Nonon and Saori. If they choose to engage, they'll have the drop on the barely-visible, image-distorted enemies who are looking for a chance to force their way in once the cave is open. Keeping them from doing that is important. The fewer enemies that have to be dealt with when the cave is finally open, the better their chances of getting out of here… With or without the scrolls.
One of them seems to sense Saori's presence as she uses Chakra, and looks up with a 'hmm!?' He draws a blade judging by the action of his blurry silhouette that slightly warps the air around him. She won't need special senses to detect THAT. And there is only a moment for her to act before she is spotted!
Nonon, meanwhile, has several enemies approaching her, though spread out to prevent being taken out by a single attack. They're professionals. But are they as good as the Chuunin? Time to find out.
Meanwhile, Mihoshi responds to Rinoko with a snarl and, "Rankoro! I just said to keep your focus on the task at hand! Do you have so little faith in your friends and team mates that you assume they won't be able to protect us and complete the mission when their fight has barely started!? A real woman's got to have guts! Concentrate and we'll be done faster!"
Aru's own little speech is taken in stride, but the red-haired older kunoichi smirks. "Hmph! The girl has the right of it. Whether we're taking them home or destroying them, the mission objective still has to be reached either way! Maybe they're waiting for us to open it. But that doesn't mean we have to give them anything! I'm going to pull out all the stops. Prepare for the burden in Chakra to increase by about double… No, triple. I'll handle most of it, but we have to hurry."
Then Mihoshi does exactly as she says, and the pace of code combinations increases even more, and the Chakra drain is enough to make a normal shinobi's legs buckle. Mihoshi is sweating from the effort, not unaffected at all, but determined to keep at it. Can Rinoko keep up? Can she show that she too has guts, and that everyone depending on her is justified in their belief?
And then, as the dragoon guy attacks Suzu, Tsugumi reappears, apparently having given up on making a tidal wave to wash away all the enemies, as she simply appears in mid-air alongside the dragoon guy. She was trying desperately to prevent him from attacking Suzu, but she didn't make it in time. It's up to Suzu to defend herself. Instead, Tsugumi attempts to kick the enemy in the head and knock him away from the cave and also away from Rinoko and Mihoshi. He's clearly been taking great pains not to injure them, not even attacking Aru when she stood near them.
If they're all clustered together around their two seal experts, attacking will be even harder, while the kunoichi will have no such restriction.
Taijutsu may not be Tsugumi's strong suit, but with her Sharingan, she can time her attacks precisely enough that it hopefully won't matter. And then, there's something else that makes up for it. The Tsugumi attacking the enemy isn't really Tsugumi. Much like her daughter, she started off with a clone.
She may not have gathered the water for a tidal wave, but she apparently got enough for a Water Clone.
But where is the real Tsugumi?
Suzu was starting to feel smug about her shoving fire in this stupid guy's face, though the fact they've been keep tracking of her abilities and those of her mom… And probably the others as well… That's worrying. And it means they're almost definitely connected to the Bombers.
But it seems she really does need more training, because even as a Water Clone of Tsugumi manifests out of the air in response to the enemy lunging at Suzu with a spear shrouded in intense Chakra, Suzu's Sharingan isn't enough to let her defend. She tries to catch and move the spear off to the side, to at least reduce the damage she takes. It kind of succeeds, but the damage is still pretty severe as the spear tears through her abdomen on the left side and right out her back. Unlike with Tsugumi's Genjutsu, this injury is real. The air goes out of Suzu as she lets out a pained and shocked noise, her eye wide.
But as the Water Clone attacks her attacker, Suzu grits her teeth, narrows her eyes, and attempts to grab hold of the spear impaling her and not let go. Then she tries HER hand at Genjutsu. Her hands are occupied, but with her Sharingan she tries to cast on the enemy while he's distracted, attempting to make it look like the Water Clone attacked twice instead of once. This is both to attempt to get him to waste time defending, and to maneuver him towards Aru.
Their greatest asset isn't their individual strength. It's team work.
But boy does Suzu wish her mom's team work had kept her from getting stabbed.
"… I wasn't suggesting we not keep going," Rinoko points out. She never wavers with her chakra control either. "I was warning you all of something I'd thought of so you'd be prepared in case that is what's going to happen." She smirks a bit, wondering if Aru and Mihoshi thought she was going to take the coward's way out at this point. Sweat continues to pour down her head, growing a bit thicker the longer this goes.
The enemies are approaching. Things are becoming more intense back by the cave. Nonon gives in and looks back just in time to see Suzu get impaled. The world is already moving slowly for her. But it slows down even further when she sees that. She analyzes what she knows of human anatomy. That isn't a good injury to get, but it won't be fatal. Still, she should get Suzu help as soon as possible.
She is suddenly in the same tree as Saori, scooping up the little Genin in her arms, and then she is at the cliff side with the others, dropping her off. And then, she is turning around and raising one hand as she prepares a Ninjutsu.
Before she even finishes putting Saori down, two kunai stained with Nonon's blood and Nonon's Chakra have been hurled at the cloaked enemies, from a position that Nonon no longer occupies. Swift Release. It's a heck of a drug.
Even if she can't get all of the camouflaged foes, she can at least keep their heads down. After she finishes prepping her jutsu at least. "Keep it up, ladies!" Nonon cheers, despite her expression being quite serious. When her allies get impaled, the mission is no longer fun and games.
Saori is just looking down when she hears a sound below her, feeling fear and tension as she attempts to orient on the hidden foe so can either defend herself or drop down on him. Then she is scooped up in the arms of Nonon, and then she is suddenly with Rinoko, Aru, Mihoshi, Suzu, and Tsugumi (or a Water Clone thereof). It happens so quickly it takes Saori a moment to figure out what just happened. But then she stops worrying about it when she sees Suzu's injury. She knows what she has to do.
Regardless of Suzu's success or lack thereof with stealing away their opponent's spear, Saori needs to heal her comrade. So she runs towards Suzuha, prepares to extract the spear if it hasn't already been, and begin applying Medical Chakra to the wound. "Please try not to move, Suzuha-san. You will aggravate the injury if you don't cooperate."
She says it very matter-of-factly, but her face is in srs little girl mode. >:<
Aru feels foolish for trying to lecture Rinoko all dramatic shounen manga style. But the words seemed to indicate Rinoko was considering retreating and coming back later. 'Maybe we shouldn't unseal it.' How else is she supposed to interpret that!? The one time Aru speaks up, and her point was pointless. She huffs and then says, "My apologies for doubting you then, Rinoko-sensei. I'll keep my mouth shut in the future."
She doesn't know if Water Clone Tsugumi + Suzu will successfully maneuver the enemy towards her, but Aru isn't going to stand by to find out. Instead, she moves into position on her own and decides NOW is the moment to use her new jutsu. She emits Chakra from her entire body while spinning rapidly, calling out, "EIGHT TRIGRAMS HEAVENLY SPIN!" The ground at her feet is erroded away. And if dragoon guys impacts the barrier, his skin might get a similar treatment.
Dragoon guy turns in surprise as Tsugumi seems to manifest right next to him. He just barely uses his grip on the spear that Suzu is hanging onto in order to hand stand and avoid the kick aimed at his head. He recognizes the Yin Chakra as well thanks to his sensory abilities, and realizes not only that the Water Clone didn't attack twice, but that the real Tsugumi is… Above! The same cliff he was standing on when he attacked them originally!
However, in his distraction, Aru grinds away his back with a dome of whirling Chakra, and he lets out a cry of pain before being hurled away and off towards the forest. He gets back up quickly enough, but that clearly wasn't pleasant on his end. He lets out an angered noise, gritting his teeth as she returns to his feet and feels the burning pain of his back being rubbed raw right through his cloak, robe, and body armor. If not for all those layers, he'd probably be bloody right now. As it is, the damage still go through and his nerve endings are screaming at him.
On top of that, he lost his hold on his weapon, and now Suzu has it, even if it's currenly being pulled out of the wound. He narrows his eyes as the little white-haired girl works on healing Suzu's injury. What the…? So that's what this new member is for? They had no intelligence on this one before now, and her being added to the team was a surprise.
He starts forming hand seals and prepares to unleash a shredding stream of wind, precisely aimed to spare the two seal-users. But then something happens.
Two enemies get hit by Nonon's thown kunai, one is stabbed in the throat and taken down right away, another gets hit in the shoulder, swears, and tries to meld back into the underbrush. But bleeding now, and stained with Nonon's blood and Chakra too, he'll be easier to track in the future.
More ninja suddenly reveal themselves, responding to some unheard order. There are… Dozens. Dozens of enemy ninja, all scattered throughout the woods. Skilled or not, this many enemies is far more foes than Team 13 has ever dealt with before. Rinoko may not have been suggesting a retreat. But maybe that would have been a good idea.
And now, it might be too late. But then, something happens.
Tsugumi was standing up there because she was gathering huge amounts of water and needed to stay out of the fight for that. As the forest begins to flood, water pouring in from all around, and Tsugumi's Chakra levels decreasing rapidly, there's a rumbling in the ground and a roaring sound in the air. She's essentially casting an A-Rank Water-style Ninjutsu over and over, in pieces, in order to gather the water to actually use it as an attack.
That's costly, and it's showing on her face as the enemy looks up at her, then moves away to start casting his own jutsu.
But then, something happens.
Mihoshi's eyes widen and then she yells out, "I've got it! The sequence appears to be Fire+Yin-37.2:Yang-62.8, Wind+Yin-42:Yang-58, Water…" Then she looks to Rinoko and says, "Nevermind. That degree of precision will take weeks to master." Uzumaki Mihoshi drops her hand, turns around, takes Rinoko's hands in hers, and then sends that strong, Uzumaki life force into Rinoko, at the same leaving two bloody marks on the backs of Rinoko's paper-body hands. Blood from Mihoshi herself?
"Transcription Seal: Fuinjutsu Chakra Optimization." she intones.
Then, Rinoko would KNOW how. At least for this moment, at least for this jutsu, the ability to unlock this barrier is hers. All she has to do is reach and use it. If she does? The seal tags on the cliff side light up in the correction sequence in the correct hues. And the cliff side barrier is undone.
And then something happens.
The entire cave entrance, that huge boulder, that slab of rock, EXPLODES outwards with all those kunoichi standing in front of it at ground-zero. Tsugumi herself is hurled from the top of the cliff by the intense tremors. Chunks of rock go flying, hitting and crushing enemy shinobi. The dragoon guy manages to slice through one chunk that comes at him with a wind blast from his mouth. But then, as he stands in the aftermath, with the dusting settling, shielding his eyes and keeping a look-out, he dares to mutter amidst the dying echoes, "…Was the combination wron—" A spear of bone rams through his throat and out the back and he begins choking on the obstruction, grasping at the rope of muscle and ligament woven together with bone, extending all the way back into the now-opened cave.
"Gato. You didn't have to open the door so forcefully." a man's voice says.
"Shut up, baka! These scum woke me up from my nap!" a higher-pitched male voice replies.
"Silence, all of you." a woman's voice interjects. "And Kotatsu, we don't sleep."
Several shadowy silhouettes appear in the dust cloud as people begin to emerge from within the cave. They seem to bear clothing and hita-ite from several different nations and Villages. The mask and attire of a Hunter-Nin of Kirigakure. The robes of a ninja from the Land of Hot Water. The Clan Wars-era armor of a Senju, and another of an Uchiha. A white-haired woman wearing a leather harness that keeps her barely decent. More and more detail become evident. But all of those with visible eyes… Have the whites of their eyes turned to black.
And then the hunter-nin masked woman says as the line of ninja stand in the sunlight for the first time since they were sealed away, "The walking dead don't get to rest."
It seems Suzu didn't affect the enemy with her Genjutsu. Though the fact he saw through her mom's is impressive. Maybe she should have used something stronger? Defeating a specialist of Tsugumi's caliber though… Suzu looks over to Rinoko, and smirks a bit, seeing her pouring herself into this. And she smirks even more when the distracted enemy gets hit by Aru because he was too busy focusing on the target he assumed was the greatest threat. The rumbling and roaring of water, and the fact Tsugumi is up there forming hand seals indicates this is the same jutsu that… She winces both from pain and the memory of her mother using this jutsu to take down Moroi. And her father.
As the spear is pulled out of her wound she hisses, squinting her eyes shut, and going down on hands and knees. She lets ou a shuddering noise of agony, but that turns into one of relief as the spear finishes slurping out of the side of her abdomen and Medical Chakra flows in to replace it and mend the wound. In a matter of moments, with repeated castings of such a simple jutsu, the hole is closed and on its way to being healed. She'll need to rest still to fully recover, but there's no more injury and she can function just fine.
Then she looks towards Mihoshi and Rinoko again, just as the cliff side explodes, hurling Suzu through the air. Her Sharingan is all that lets her keep track of the rocks flying at her face, grabbing Saori up in her arms and leaping and springing off the boulders in mid-air until she lands on solid ground again. That wasn't skill, just her Kekkei Genkai combined with pure adrenaline and instinct. She was lucky not to get crushed.
But as she breathes heavily, looking wild-eyed at the newly-opened cave, and then down at Saori, and then back to the cave again, she can't believe what she sees. Who are those people? How long have they been sealed away? Are they guardians of the scrolls? Were they lied to about the nature of the scrolls? What's going on!?
More importantly… Are her friends, team mates, and mother safe!?
Nonon is fast, but she wasn't expecting the explosion of the wall behind her. Especially not when the enemy got hurled away before it happened. Did he plant explosive tags? She doesn't know. She doesn't know because she got hit in the back by rock shards and the sheer concussive force sent her tumbling and directly into some of that water that was gathering, causing her to skid and skim across the surface with bruises and a dislocated leg, until she manages to stabilize herself.
She doesn't know what just happened. And she definitely doesn't know who that is coming out of the cave so noisily. And she doesn't understand the dread significance of those eyes. But she knows that she and everyone else are in big trouble. The dozens of mook shinobi were bad news. These several? A whole other level. She can feel it.
She can also feel the agonizing pain and numbness in her knee from the dislocated leg, but that takes something of a back seat to the sight before her. At least for now.
Saori is picked up and carried to safety AGAIN, right after she finishes healing Suzu. She was busy with that, and then looked up as she heard the code announced. She looked interested in the jutus that Mihoshi was performing on Rinoko, and then when Rinoko opened the barrier… Chaos was unleashed. Even her dim Chakra sensitivity is enough to feel the incredible pressure of those beings presently emerging. She doesn't know who they are, and she doesn't know what they are.
But after seeing one of them take out that enemy ninja so easily after it took three of them just to injure him a bit, she can take a guess.
Aru felt a small wave of pride in her skills that she was able to hit such a sketchy enemy like that who was doing well against two kunoichi much stronger than Aru. But he made a mistake, and paid for it. It was luck that she succeeded. She squashes down her ego, the exact thing that got the enemy injured twice, AND made him lose his weapon.
Instead, if she must feel pride, she should feel it for her squad leader, for handling such immense amounts of Chakra, having such amazing techniques, and working with seal jutsu far beyond her as though she were born to them. Sure, Mihoshi-sama is doing the complicated stuff, but Rinoko is keeping up with her, learning, and using a strange and powerful body-transformation that Aru finds herself staring at now that her Byakugan can be directed at her.
Thanks to Rinoko and Mihoshi, the code is uncovered. Thanks to Nonon and Saori, Suzu is healed. And thanks to Suzu and Tsugumi, she got the chance to contribute, as little as it was, while the enemy was kept off their backs. But as hordes of foes reveal themselves, Aru realizes how outnumbered they are. And she isn't sure if they can handle it. Tsugumi's plan with the water might be their one hope.
And then the barrier is opened. There is a small pause. And then the cliff explodes, and Aru is struck in the head with a flying rock at high speed, and she knows nothing more. Not of reanimated shinobi, not of the fate of their enemies… Only blackness.
TO BE CONTINUED…