Date: November 27, 2016
Following the retreat from the reanimation shinobi, Team 13 regroups to assess what to do next.
"Bloom and Grow - Pt. 8"
Land of Fire
ONE AND A HALF DAYS BEFORE THE INCIDENT…
Uchiha Tsugumi, Uchiha Suzuha, Namikaze Nonon, Hatake Saori, and two injured ninja, Hyuga Aru and Uzumaki Mihoshi, are fleeing from monstrous ninja who have just been released from confinement and promptly set about killing everyone. They managed to escape, as what can only be a Shirayuki ghosted around the forest, appearing in one place after another, killing the enemies that had outnumbered them so badly with icy weapons. Tsugumi hadn't been sure she could overcome that many enemies foe without falling back on the same jutsu she always seems to these days. A Water Jutsu copied from an enemy responsible for many deaths of Leaf shinobi after infiltrating the Hidden Leaf.
And now she seemed to use it whenever the road got tough, simply because she didn't have anything stronger. And she hated that. But now, here she was, fleeing with her team, leaving her co-captain behind, because none of them were strong enough to take on an opponent who was presently making short work of the same enemies Tsugumi had feared being unable to stop without a copied technique from a foul enemy. The only time she felt more sick with her own weakness was when she couldn't find a way to save Ken.
Gasping for breath, she brings the team to a crevasse formed by a dried river bed, jumping down into it, and then putting her back flush against the side, trusting in the ledge above to conceal her from view. She doesn't know if they're still being pursued or not. The team ran frantically for about a half hour just incase, but Tsugumi stopped feeling that killing intent or sensing pursuit over twenty minutes prior.
But now, just trying to get her breath back, carefully keeping the outwards appearance of calmness despite the sweat running down her face, she looks to Mihoshi. She has bound her arm at the point where she was injured with seal tags and written some jutsu onto them with Chakra and her own blood, possibly to staunch the blood flow at least or to preserve what's left of the appendage. But medical treatment will be necessary.
Tsugumi looks down to the Hyuga girl hanging limply under one of her arms, carried the whole way. She's glad that she did all the physical training she has been doing now. Without it, she isn't sure if even adrenaline could have let her carry Aru all this way by herself. It was hard enough leaving Rinoko behind. Tsugumi wouldn't have been able to leave behind a team mate who can't even defend herself as well. And that might have cost them more of their people trying to protect others.
"Saori, once you have your breath back, please tend to Aru." Tsugumi sets the Hyuga down carefully on the nearest flat-ish surface available and then turns to focus on Mihoshi. She scans the others to make sure Suzu and Nonon are okay along the way. Mihosho waves Tsugumi off. "I've stopped the bleeding. I'm not going to get any worse. Save me for after the Hyuga girl is inspected."
Tsugumi kneels down next to her regardless, reaching out to try to inspect the wound.
Mihoshi jerks the stump arm away, not interested in Tsugumi trying to mother her, and says, "Girl, I've had worse. I said DEAL WITH ARU-SAN FIRST."
Tsugumi narrows her eyes a bit. It's true Mihoshi is older than her, but still. She nods her head and says, "I can't do anything for Aru, but I'll let you tend to your arm until our medic is done with her. My apologies." This is a pretty stressful situation, and Mihoshi must be in a lot of pain. Holding her anger against her right now would be immature and divisive.
So instead she checks on the others and starts thinking about what they're going to do next.
Suzu is not quite in as good of shape as her mom. Oddly enough, before her mother started working out so much, Suzu was just about ready to surpass her physically. Well, except in terms of speed… But comparing herself to her squad captain isn't what's foremost in her mind right now. Instead, as she looks around at the rest of the team, seeing the state they're in, she feels angry. Angry at her own weakness in not being able to protect those close to her again.
While the wounded are still being tended to, Suzuha thinks back on the terror she felt, and feels ashamed that she didn't stand up to it, even if she didn't really have a way to do so. Rinoko is still back there… Aru is lying nearby, unconscious, and they don't even know if anything can be done for her. Hopefully Saori can, but there's no guaranees.
Suzu remains crouched in the gully with the others, and then asks, "So how are we getting Rinoko-san back?"
Nonon fled with the others, wanting to stand and fight with Rinoko, cursing under her breath as she was ordered to leave… Knowing from being a Chuunin that she had to do as her team leader says, whether she likes it or not. She knows her responsibilities, and her duties. And she knows that leaving Rinoko behind isn't a decision that Tsugumi made lightly. The Uchiha chose what was best for the team, no matter what it cost her personally. So Nonon abides by that.
But after an exhausting flight, with the sounds of death and violence gradually receding into the background behind them, and no more losses on their side… They finally come to a stop. Probably further than they really had to go, given the lack of pursuit. And if the enemies have a chance of following them even now, after all the distance they have put between them, then even running some more probably wouldn't change much.
There's probably a reason they haven't pursued yet. Nonon is trying to figure that out. Did Rinoko confine too many of the others? That ice girl seemed able to bypass it. On top of that, Nonon is pretty sure that was a defensive technique, not an offensive one. It wasn't designed for confining anyone. And from the strength they possessed, if they really wanted to break through, they probably could have.
So what's keeping them there? And what WERE they exactly? Nonon is pretty sure she saw one of them get injured and then just… Repair himself. Who were they? Tsugumi seemed to recognize one of them as her 'grandfather'. Probably the one in Uchiha garb.
Suzu's question is a poignant one, but perhaps not the best one. Still, Nonon isn't sure what else to add at this point. She has to rest and recover her Chakra. Whether they're mounting a rescue operation or not, she wants to be ready for whatever comes next. So she sits down, drinks some water, and catches her breath. And just… Takes in all that just happened, as she tries to figure out how to process a workable solution out of it. Planning and leadership are what made her a Chuunin, after all, not her speed.
Saori was carried this far, which is good, because with her stubby little legs she wouldn't have been able to keep up with everyone else. But now she's being asked to tend to two injured team mates, even if one of them is being given priority, and Saori doesn't know if she can even do that. Still, she nods and without hesitation moves over to where Aru is lying, trying to first check her condition with Diagnostic Jutsu and then start healing her appropriately. She is already frowning deeply at the damage she has uncovered. A fractured skull. Possible brain hemorrhage. She can't treat this with her current skill level. The best she can do is keep Aru alive by keeping blood away from anywhere in the brain it shouldn't be… To try to mend the bone a bit.
But this is far beyond her current skill level. Even if she fixed the many parts of the Hyuga's head, she wouldn't be able to repair what's actually wrong. She'd just be undoing the damage, not making her whole. But… They're relying on her. Aru is relying on her. So Saori does her best.
Aru can do nothing. She knows nothing. Is aware of nothing. She is unconscious, not just passed out or asleep. She can not wake up on her own. And the damage she has sustained is indeed severe. Perhaps with Rinoko here as well, Saori and her working together could have gotten Aru up and active again. But unless Saori figures something out, it seems the prognosis is dire for the Hyuga. Possibly the only assured way to save her is to load her up with Nonon and Saori, have Nonon carry both of the other kunoichi, and run at full speed back to the Village with Saori does her best to maintain a continuous stream of healing Chakra.
But that would take two combat-capable members of the remainder of the team out of the fight, and with Mihoshi's injuries, that might just leave Tsugumi and Suzu. Not enough to handle the monsters back at the cave. Probably not enough to even rescue Rinoko. But something has to be done, doesn't it? Sacrifices have to be made.
And either Aru or Rinoko may have to be one of them.
Tsugumi hears Suzu's question, but doesn't respond immediately. She's trying desperately to think. To figure out the best course of action. When she speaks, it's to Mihoshi. "I don't suppose you have any fast transportation techniques? Summoning or something you could use to call in support?"
Mihoshi shakes her head. "Nothing like that, no. My specialty is sealing and unsealing. The transfer of power. I could try to bolster Aru-san's life force with my own, like I did for Rinoko-san, but that's about it. If you want to get us out of here quickly, we're going to have to move the old-fashioned way."
Tsugumi looks at Nonon, the fastest one here, but doesn't know if Nonon's stamina can hold out long enough while using her high-speed jutsu to get Aru back. And she doubts Nonon can carry Saori or Mihoshi at the same time to keep feeding energy to the Hyuga.
She looks towards Saori then to see how she's managing, realizing she is demanding a lot of the girl, but also feeling that the Hatake kunoichi can live up to the challenge. She directs her attention towards Suzuha at last. "Before we can rescue Rinoko, we have to become stronger. The course of action I'm about to provide will probably sound impossible. Maybe it is. But it's our only hope."
Tsugumi looks over each member of her team in turn, her gaze lingering on the unconscious Head Family ninja… Oh, lord, what the Hyuga would have to say to Tsugumi if Aru dies on her watch. But the political ramifications are a side concern next to making sure Aru gets through this, among other things on her mind.
"We're going to train. We're going to train to become strong enough to rescue Rinoko. And we have less than a day to do it in."
Suzu is initially annoyed at not being answered immediately, but she holds her tongue and focuses both on what her mother is saying and doing and her own inner thoughts and half-baked plans. What her mother says at the end, however, sounds so incredibly unrealistic that it's something Suzu might have come up with herself a year or so ago. She squints and asks, "What kind of training is this exactly? I doubt you expect us to do any sort of normal training within that time period. Do you have something unusual in mind? Like what Mihoshi-sama did to Rinoko to transfer knowledge?"
To Nonon, as well, this sounds like an utterly implausible course of action, so she has many of the same thoughts as Suzu. What else does Tsugumi have planned to make this feasible? What kind of training can they accomplish in so short a time period? "Whatever you have planned… I think that if Saori-chan can stabilize Aru-chan, she might be able to help with our training." She looks to the white-haired girl. "With her Medical Ninjutsu, she should be able to refresh our energy levels and heal any injuries we incur, allowing us to do some pretty extreme training… As long as her own energy holds out. And if Mihoshi-sama can direct her life force to Saori as well, then our medic can get energy boosts in turn."
She isn't sure what Tsugumi has in mind yet, but she's trying to offer supports for the plan, whatever it may be, rather than discarding it out of hand due to its seeming impossibility. But honestly… Getting strong enough to fight those enemies seems unlikely. They were monsters, plain and simple.
Saori has rarely had cause to push herself seriously. Everything up until now has come relatively easily… Except, ironically, the most basic academy techniques. For some reason she'd just had a mental block with them. One she has gladly now worked her way through. But now she's just trying to keep Aru alive, and it sounds like the Team needs her to do a LOT more.
She's going to have to figure out a way to bolster their stamina, not just heal their wounds. And her healing skills are also going to have to be upped. That isn't the sort of thing one just does on a whim. It requires hours of practice and dedication, study, research…
She asks, "Tsugumi-sensei, you said we had less than a day. How much less?" First she needs to figure out how much time they have to work with, so she knows how feasible cobbling something together may be. In the meanwhile, she continues working on Aru, trying to piece together a fractured skull.
It seems a different solution might exist after all. And, despite Saori's inner doubts, what she is doing now, using Chakra to reassemble the fragments of Aru's skull, seems to be working. Mending the bone isn't going to be finished in such a short time period, but keeping her brains INSIDE her head and blood OUT so it's not damaging her brain cells seems to be within the Hatake's capabilities. Infact, Aru's breathing seems to be easier as her skull forms back into something resembling an intact braincase.
She's still unconscious, but she's not longering struggling on the edge of death.
Tsugumi nods her head. "Somewhat," she says to Suzuha in regard to having something special in mind for this training. To Mihoshi, she says, "Nonon's suggestion is a good one. If you're willing to part with your life force, not enough to endanger you, but enough to help her out, then keeping her energy levels high will help her care for all of us in turn."
She then looks towards Saori and says, "I'd like to be on our way in 3 hours or less."
She sits down and folds her arms, her head hurting from many causes and making her want to close her eyes for just a little bit. Instead, she says, "Can you do it, Saori-san?"
When Suzu hears the time frame they're working in, and gets no details of what's planned for this training, she starts to ask incredulously, "Can SHE do it…?" She leaps up and says, "Mom, I don't even know if ANY of us can do it! Unless your big plan is to show off a lot of jutsu and have me copy them, I can't think of any way I can improve significantly in that time period, even with Saori-chan's help. Can you elaborate at ALL on what this special thing you're planning is?"
Nonon looks down at the ground when she hears the '3 hours or less' time window. Much like Suzuha, she's skeptical. This strikes her as desperation. Possibly a delusion brought about by the desire not to lose Rinoko like Tsugumi lost her husband. That possibility goes through her mind. But at the same time, she is calculating, considering what might be intended if Tsugumi is being serious. How to maximize their training output while still remaining in functional form at the end of it.
"I hate to say it, but Suzuha might be right unless we know more about what's planned. And no offense to Mihoshi-sama, but I don't thing using her as a 'life force' battery is a viable solution. That's her LIFE we're talking about. How many years of her life will she be losing by directing that energy to other people? Her Stamina, her Chakra, sure. I understand an Uzumaki is likely to have a lot of those. But she already gave a bunch of that to Rinoko, AND she's injured."
Nonon looks towards Mihoshi and says, "Are you confident you'll live through this if you give this up? I thought the whole reason we're trying to save Rinoko-sensei instead of going back to the Village to get help is because Tsugumi-sama isn't willing to sacrifice another person she cares about for the mission. Wouldn't it be defeating the purpose if you die for that?"
Saori listens as everyone discusses plans, argues about the viability of the proposed solution before they even hear what Tsugumi has in mind, and is generally being noisy while the medic patiently tries to fix a team mate's head. She knows she's making progress, but this is delicate work. She can't afford to slack off or become distracted or otherwise risk making a mistake before she's done. She does, however, have enough multi-tasking capability that she can respond to their team leader's answer with calmness that no one else here is showing.
"I can't, Tsugumi-sama. Not within the proposed period of time." Well, that's that then, right? Saori is silent for a little while longer, as she melds a cracked plate back together, fusing the bone. "Please allow me six hours. I will have improved by then."
Aru's face twitches a little in places, her eyes lids moving as she exits unconsciousness and enters into R.E.M. sleep. She's… Sleeping now. That doesn't mean she's out of the woods, but she's not in danger of going into a coma. If Saori can improve enough to do complicated surgery like this, improvising a medical technique for repairing skull fractures, then maybe what she says is correct. Aru doesn't know. But in her dreams, she is in a black pit with jagged red shards stabbing down at her, keeping her from climbing out. As she lies at the bottom, she hurts badly, can feel her head bleeding…
And can hear voices somewhere above her, echoing down. Familiar voices. But she can't undertand them. And soon, she is dreaming of something else. Being back home, with Reime. Sitting on the porch and eating shaved ice during the summer. Nothing scary, nothing painful. Just the two of them.
Aru, for now, has escaped the world that awaits her when she wakes up. The rest of her team is not so lucky.
Tsugumi eyes Nonon sharply and says, "The IDEA is that 'sacrificing' Rinoko isn't necessary, and that castin aside her life simply because that's more convenient isn't necessarily the best course of action." She looks towards Suzuha and says, "Until it becomes necessary, I'd rather hold it in reserve. There's no point in discussing it before then. But it has to do with THAT power." She inclines her head slightly, hoping Suzu catches her meaning.
Saori's answer isn't the one that Tsugumi was hoping for, but the answer she gives after that, and the evaluation of Aru's Chakra that Tsugumi observes with her Sharingan, noting how the Hyuga's condition is stabilizing, give her pause to consider.
"Six is the absolute limit then. If we can finish before that much time has passed, that's what we should be aiming for. But after six hours, we'll have to move with what we have accomplished, is that okay, Saori-san?" Tsugumi asks, not trying to coddle her, but wanting to make sure the one they are depending on is ready for the responsibility she is being given.
Mihoshi, meanwhile, after Tsugumi has responded to those who have spoken, answers Nonon's concern. "You don't need to worry about me, but I appreciate the thought. It's my life though. I'll do with it what I please. And it pleases me to do all I can to help you get your friend, comrade, and team leader back. You're a member of Team 13B, aren't you? Can you say you wouldn't give up your own life to save her if you had to?"
Suzu takes a moment to process the look that her mother gives her, but then sits back down slowly. To use 'that'? She means… The Mangekyou Sharingan? How can THAT help them? Does it have some power that Suzuha doesn't know about that could help with their training? She becomes lost in though after hearing Saori's proposed revised time window, as well as her mom agreeing to it as an absolute limit.
Instead of worrying about whether the plan is possible, and about whether she can do anything, she should be focusing on what she's going to do to improve. What she can learn, what she should advance… If her mother is sure that the power she wields can make this training work, then Suzu needs to think of what she can contribute when they go back for Rinoko. Preferably something to counter-act the enemy's jutsu.
That ice kunoichi was a real problem… She was so fast it was like she was teleporting. While one might think that intense flames would be the counter to ice, to melt it and all, landing a hit is probably of greater priority. And that means improving her perceptions and reaction time, surely. But what else?
The younger of the Uchiha present focuses on this. And all the while doubts herself, even though she knows she can't afford to be caught up in such.
Chastised by both Tsugumi and Mihoshi, Nonon decides to keep her mouth shut for a little bit. She shouldn't have prodded at their team leader, and now she feels like trash for actually arguing against the rescue of Rinoko, even though she definitely wants her team leader and friend back. She was just thinking like a Chuunin, focusing on what the best course of action from a strategic stand point would be, rather than an emotional one. "Of course I want to save her," she answers finally. "I'm sorry. I just wanted to evaluate all options and our reasons for doing what we're doing."
She stands up and says, "I'll do everything I can to make this plan a success. Tsugumi-sama, Mihoshi-sama, where should we start?"
Saori nods in acknowledgement, and says, "Hai." She's unable to devote more energy to responding. Sweat is running down her face as she expends her Chakra on this very involved emergency surgical procedure she has never even attempted before. But she understands that her improvement has to happen as quickly as is viable, to a very high degree, with the expectation of spectacular results. If possible, she should try to do all that she has to before the six hours are up.
She doesn't miss Aru's transition from near-coma to mere sleep, but that doesn't mean her work is done. It's not like the Hyuga is under anesthetic. She could awaken at any time, and any movement right now would be life-threatening. On that note…
"Mihoshi-sama, could you please come make sure that Aru-san's head doesn't move while I treat her? If she wakes up before I finish, and tries to move around, she could die." She says it calmly, but that's only because she has compartmentalized her mind's functions, so that she can perform this surgery and various other tasks while simultaneously still being able to handle communication and thought on subjects outside of the surgery, if only barely.
She doesn't have room in all that for emotion right now. Feeling things will come later.
Aru remains in her dream world. Dreaming of peaceful times. Tsugumi, and Suzu, and Nonon, and Saori, and Rinoko, and Mihoshi have all joined her and Reime at their house. They're just relaxing, and having a fun time. But Aru has such an awful headache, that's it hindering her ability to be involved in the enjoyment others are having. It feels like glass shards are stabbing into her scalp. Or even deeper than that. It hurts terribly.
But she tries to keep her pain off her face, to try to be a good hostess for the others, to be there with her friends and family…
And little by little, the pain fades.