Date: March 13th, 2010
A B-Rank mission to retrieve a chest from Ankoku Cave turns out to be more than was bargained for.
"Broken Memories Pt. 1 - Ankoku Cave'"
Ankoku Cave - Land of Fire
Ordinarily there would have been only four members of this temporary team. One team leader, and three team members. However, one of the Jounin on this makeshift ninja team was given special instructions — supposedly a 'request' — from one of the advisors to the Hokage. While not a Clan Head or a member of the Konoha Jounin Council, the advisor's 'request' was worded such that it would have seemed prudent to heed it. Thus, there is not one Jounin on this mission, but two. Raion's role on this mission, and the instructions he had received, are not known to the others, of course…
It has been two days to trek all the way out to Ankoku Cave's entrance, in the middle of nowhere. Much like most of the Land of Fire, the area is a forest. But here the forest is not healthy and vibrant as in other places. The trees have been twisted into unnatural shapes that resemble tortured faces screaming in pain, or demonic visages leering with malicious intent.
Even though it is afternoon the area is dark with some foul-smelling green miasma that rises from the fetid soil, and blocks out most of the light from the sky. Unwholesome white things protrude from the ground, perhaps some odd form of root… Except that occasionally they >move<. Most wildlife avoids this place, and what few animals have not have become ill, with lesions all over their bodies, fur falling out in clumps, open, bleeding sores, and worse. And they're a lot more aggressive than is natural too.
Still, they watch from the shadows for now as the ninja team arrives. They may be in pain, they may be beyond any normal instincts that they would have had, but they are not stupid. Prey in numbers can be dangerous. It is better to wait until the prey is vulnerable…
The cave itself is simple. Barely a hole in the side of a rocky cliff. However, it is not its appearance that makes it unpleasant, but the sensation of a terrible Chakra radiating from the blackness beyond the entrance, and the total absence of light within. Better hope the team has brought basic ninja tool light sources of their own.
Recieving his special instructions, Raion would be present, but likely not accoutned for during this mission. Stalking the team largely and acting as an over watch, Raion would be in a position of support, and if need be, command of this operation. The strange and sickly air of this place did not phase him, as while it was strange and even unique, Raion had much experience in the world regardless of his age. He had spent many years surviving by himself, and this was simply odd terrain and curious circumstance to him. His form barely would waiver the air just slightly in his passing, but only on rare occassion as he focused on maintaining a position to observe the others for now.
Prepared is the one thing Taji is, as he had no idea what to really expect so he brought his backpack. Taji is a 'be prepared' kind of ninja. His face slowly descends into a scowl as he studies the sick plant and animal life as the group approaches the cave. He looks worried, nervous, and not particularly happy about the surroundings. The whole 'evil' feel has Taji a tad twitchy. As the group approaches the cave Taji reaches into his pack to pull out a small hand lamp, filled with somekind of smokeless oil. The lamp is small, meant for easy hand use and made of bronze so as to be sturdy and unlikely to break or spill if it is dropped. The lamp looks like one you might see used on a sea faring ship.
Taji looks to the others before lighting the lamp, "Ah, so what is the plan?" He asks the more experienced ninja, letting them take the lead. "Don't want to light the lamp until we're ready to go in. Do we want to explore the area around here first? Just to make sure we aren't ambushed while in the cave?" He suggests, sounding a tad unsure as he looks around.
The orders to join this team had come shortly after Haru's initial encounter with Raion and the possible members of Raion's team to come in the future. It had been a surprise, but it had been accepted graciously. He simply walks along quietly, with the rest of the makeshift team… decidedly unbundled, and simply wearing the yukata he's used to wearing, instead. However, there -is- a makeshift shawl over the boy's face, covering his nose and mouth, but leaving his eyes unobstructed. He's alongside Taji, and when the other boy speaks, he glances over, tilting his head slightly… But he says nothing, for the time being. Instead, he follows Taji's glance toward the Chuunin and the Jounin.
Really, nothing dampens Sinoe's spirits. She is walking along with them, just marching and wondering if there's a way to move faster. She really hates just walking to places. Heck, even just running isn't fun. She wants to RUN. Sinoe looks back at Moriko as she walks and then forward to Taji and Haru. She peers at Taji and opens her mouth before pondering. She taps her chin lightly before looking back at Moriko, "Uh…why are we here again?" She hmms and glances around, "I mean, really. This place could seriously use a gardener, but I'm not really up for the position other than the weeding part." She nods her head and gestures, "I can weed with the best of 'em!"
Mo pauses, then shrugs, and glances to Sinoe "Mission." She answers simply then looks around "Investigating the cause to mass animal sickness, and trying to gain information on it and erradicate the cause I imagine." she says. She then glances around curiously, the girl checking her backpack for medical supplies before nodding to her self and putting the pack back on her back. She then suddenly stretches her back and holds up a large lantern before glancing around. "Sooo, I guesswe go on in, neh?" She then adds.. "Oh and we're to fetch our selves a chest I guess… nevermind the sickness, writ here says chest first."
Out of nowhere, a sparrow divebombs Moriko and starts scrabbling at her face with its tiny talons and pecking with its beak. It's not exactly a major threat, and its only one bird. But it only takes one good peck to take out an eye. The bird shrilly chirps, over and over during its attack, flapping its wings madly. For a Jounin it probably wouldn't be hard to get rid of it. What's more disturbing is the fact that a single tiny sparrow is attacking at all.
Taji frowns at the talk, as he looks around. Spying the bird that swoops down at Moriko, Taji ducks a bit on his own, reflexively as he looks around to see if there are any other birds or animals on the agressive side at the moment. "This is not good. The mission is for the chest, but if the chest or its contents are causing this, we may need to be very careful. Even if it isn't, something is doing this, and that something could be a threat to the land of fire." He mutters, loud enough to be noticed. "Guys? You want to enter the cave then? Or….?" He winces as the bird flutters around Moriko. He makes no moves to attack the bird, leaving it to Moriko's skills to deal with.
Looking at Moriko, she nods, "Alright." She states and looks at the cave and starts up toward it. She glances at Taji, "I think we should…" She blinks as a sparrow attacks Moriko's face. She stares and kinda blinks a few times, "Uh…" She huhs and than scratches her head, "Do sparrows normally go for the face? I mean, they seem more like dive bombers at best rather than face goers for…ers?" She than shrugs and waits for Moriko to deal with it.
Mo gacks and moves her hands up and shields her eyes, to keep them from being poked. She then reaches out and slaps at the bird, hoping to knock it away, if she has to she'll make use of other methods. "Let's head on into the cave and try'n get that chest." she mutters, then at the sparrow again, she pulls a senbon and comptemplates impailing the beast and taking it back for future study.
The sparrow, after being smacked away a bit, would come back in for another attack, however, it seemed to start to waver in it's path before it would tweet a bit and find a branch to land on and sing for a few moments while the team entered the cave. A kikaichu would emerge from under it's wing after everyone was inside and disappear in to thing air as Raion would steadily walk after them.
As the bird is swatted at, it seems to realize this is not its normal prey, and it takes off again, landing on a branch, as previously indicated. Its 'song' appears to be quite distorted, however, and once that kikaichu leaves it, the sparrow rapidly flies up into the sickly green mist that blots out the sky. Haru is left to watch the entrance, and is given a wire line to tug on if there's trouble. The other end is on a reel held by one of the team members.
Shortly, the rest of the team enters Ankoku Cave. It is bigger on the inside than it appeared to be from the outside. It is also considerably less pleasant on the inside than it was on the outside. The darkness is heavy, as though it were a physical thing. It is palpable even, and it seems to be intent on sucking the heat and life out of anyone who dares to set foot in the cave. If/when the lanterns are lit, some of the surroundings are illuminated. But mostly the light doesn't travel nearly as far as it should. Perhaps it's more of that mist from outside? Though that was green, and this is just… Black.
The floor of the cave is surprisingly even, almost as though it had been worked with tools. It is not a proper path, per se, but it's level enough to walk on without fear of twisting an ankle on some sudden step. Rocks protrude from the edges of the cavern walls, however, and they look plenty sharp. Falling onto one would be no less harmful than being run through with a blade.
Other than these details, and occasional bones from small animals, there does not appear to be any immediate danger. Just that throbbing pulse of wicked Chakra that seems to emanate from the entire cave, and the unpleasant idea that everything in this part of the forest — even the >walls of the cave< — wants these ninja dead. The cave continues ahead, the relatively even floor showing there is no chest in the entrance at least. There's nowhere it could have been hidden that is in plain sight.
When Raion enters the cave behind the team, he is treated to much the same thing. And unless he has a light source of his own, or sensory kikaichu that can see in the dark or somesuch, then it is even more dank and miserable. Nothing further attacks, however.
Taji does light his small lamp, holding it in his left hand as he keeps his right hand free for what may come at him. He looks ill at ease, the dark mist or fog makes him twitchy. He mutters something about it being unnatural. He examines one of the wall spikes as he passes, to make sure the spike isn't coated with anything strange, apparently so paranoid as to wonder if the walls might be poisoned in here! He keeps behind the leaders, just trying to help with illumination and mostly staying in the center of the passageway to try to keep his footing and center of gravity low to avoid falling suddenly. He moves along with the group, keeping quiet.
A blink as she looks around and Sinoe frowns, "Umm…" She looks at the different things before looking back at Moriko. "Would…this happen to be perhaps…" She looks about, "Genjutsu of some sort to throw us off?" She peers at the stuff here and then up at Taji. She is actually kinda hoping, personally. She frowns as she moves forward on sure legs.
With a nod, Moriko holds up fingers in the rat seal and mutters as she pushes out some chakra "Kai!" The girl attempting genjutsu Kai to try and push away any possible genjutsu in the area. She then lights up her lantern and holds it up to look around the place curiously.
As the group proceeds, the cave floor seems to gradually slope downwards, heading deeper into the earth. The stone spikes don't appear to be poisoned or coated in anything, per se. It seems that, for now at least, the threat of this place may simply be the environment playing tricks on the imagination. When Moriko attempts to use Genjutsu Kai, however, things become decidedly worse. A low moan begins to float up from the depths of the cave, which turns into full-fledged howl as a powerful blast of frigid wind tears through the group, producing quite a cacaphony. The wind seems to tear all other sounds from the ears and mouths of those who would hear or speak them.
The wind ceases as suddenly as it came.
Taji will find himself to be completely alone. Where did the others go? They were right there! But now they are nowhere to be found. Further, perhaps Taji got turned around somehow, because the path out of the cave that should have been behind him is now gone. In its place is a wall like the other walls that had run alongside the path on the way here. And if he turns around to face forward again, he would find that the path that was there less than three seconds ago is now gone too. Another blank wall with stone spikes. And any sort of investigation of the area shows the same bleak fact. There are no paths out of here. Every way he might turn are cave walls. There's no way out.
Moriko, meanwhile, would find that Taji is gone, but she and Sinoe are still right where they were before that blast of wind. However, the lantern has gone out, as though the wind had reached inside and snuffed it out. Attempting to relight it would produce no results. So Moriko and Sinoe are in the darkness. And what was at least tolerable in the dim light of a lantern is rapidly growing quite intolerable. In the darkness, Moriko would hear voices. People from her past… Laughing? The laughter is not happy laughter. It is cruel, hateful, and in some cases quite insane. All of it melds together into a deluge or ear-splitting noise. The volume increases more and more, until just before Moriko >might< feel as though her head was going to burst, it all dies away in sporadic chuckles.
And then, even in the pitch-black environs, Moriko can see two people. Sinoe and Tatsuyo. They hang from nooses, dead. The ropes extend up into the darkness above. And even though the two team members are dead, they continue to glare at Moriko with hatred. 'You did this to us,' is the unspoken message. 'Because you are such a failure as a ninja. A failure as a teacher. A failure as a human being. It is your fault. Your fault. All your fault.' The message continues to repeat, over and over.
Sinoe, meanwhile, is standing near Moriko. Taji is gone somewhere, though no one ever saw him leave. And that Chakra source in the cave that was previously just omnipresent is now concentrated in a single place, a good distance away from where the Jounin and the Chuunin are standing. That Chakra source >throbs< suddenly, and begins to move closer to the two kunoichi. Tentatively, almost hesitantly at first… But then it picks up speed until it is coming quite swiftly, at a dead-run, right to where Moriko and Sinoe are standing. Moriko would likely be unresponsive. Her lantern is still lit, so Sinoe can probably see that there are tendrils of that physical darkness flowing into her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Genjutsu? Maybe. Or maybe something worse. But whatever has affected Moriko and taken Taji away, Sinoe seems to be unaffected.
Raion, likewise, would be able to detect that large malicious Chakra source as it begins its rapid approach from deeper in the cave. No mind-twisting darkness for him, though hints of that cold wind, and the black miasma that it carried, may still be picked up.
A blink as Sinoe spots the tendrils in Moriko and the lack of Taji, she frowns. Sinoe is not built for this, in the least. She's a hammer. She hits things. The incoming chakra has her eyes going toward it but she backs up and pulls out a kunai in an attempt to lightly cut a line across Moriko's shoulder to snap her out of what Sinoe hopes is a genjutsu. She than will attempt to slice through the tendrils with it, not wanting to touch them herself. She keeps looking back toward the cave, waiting to see if something bigger and nastier comes out.
Taji frowns more deeply as he finds the walls have sealed in around him. This is odd. He can't help but reach out to make sure the wall is real to the touch. He takes a deep breath then moves his right hand over the lamp held in his left hand. He holds his hand there for a moment, letting the sharp burning pain rush through him before pulling the hand away. He doesn't do enough to burn badly but instead simply works this for a self-inflict to try to break the genjutsu, if that is what it is. Fortunately one of the teammates had suggested it could be genjutsu or he'd never have thought of this as an option. He holds his breath, trying to focus to see if the attempted use of the self inflict breaks a genjutsu or just leaves him with a sore hand!
Mo blinks repeatedly, silent for now as she's being laughed at? She tilts her head then frowns. "Not right here…" She mutters. Meanwhile in the real-world she's some kind of victim of some wierd malevolent mist playing at being all tentacly. Still right now she's unawares, as she now sees her friends on nooses? "Ok maybe definately genjutsu, how does one break out of it though." she mutters and rubs her chin before trying just to build her chakra up as high as she can and try to push whatever chakra that's got her away!
Taji's burning of his hand would have an impact on his environment. Or >was< it that which caused this? What is 'this', you ask? Well, one of the very solid and very real walls, over to Taji's left, is no longer there. Instead there's a passage leading out of this side-cave, and down a tunnel. Whether it leads to the others is not apparent. But it is bound to be better than being trapped in here, right?
As Moriko starts building up her Chakra suddenly, that foreign source of malevolent Chakra seems to move even >faster< towards her. It's ALMOST HERE! Thankfully, Sinoe's cutting into Moriko's shoulder would produce a result, just as Taji's burning of his hand did. Namely, Moriko would be wrenched out of the miasma-induced hallucination. The black tendrils seem to return to being mere wisps of physical darkness. If she attempts to perform another Genjutsu Kai, or continues manipulating Chakra, however, it is likely something similar will happen a second time. Whatever this is, it is >not< conventional Genjutsu, if Genjutsu at all.
A more immediate concern is that that huge source of aggressive Chakra has stopped moving, about twenty feet away. It's down a side-passage to the left, not visible due to the slope of the passage angling downwards. The sounds of something wet and unpleasant moving around can be heard clearly, along with deep, labored breathing. Whatever it is, its cold breath can be felt wafting up the passage everytime it exhales, and every time it inhales it's like everything around is a little bit less 'alive'. The color bleeds out of both people and objects, and fatigue slowly starts to set in for the living. This monstrous Chakra source…
Finally, the… Thing, whatever it is, seems to be moving away from where the two kunoichi are situated. Its slimy noises and its breathing gradually fade into the distance. The life does not return to things when it is gone. What caused it to approach in the first place? Could it only detect people when they were under the effects of the black mist, perhaps? And if that is the case… Then one had best hope that wherever Taji is, he does not have black tendrils squirming into his eyes.
With only one obvious exit, Taji carefully makes his way, pausing to listen, to see if he can hear any other voices, every so often. So far, he hasn't had a lot of options when it came to directions. He glances at the compass built into his wrist band and makes note of his heading as he heads deeper into the cave, the only way open to him. He keeps his latern raised and in front of himself as he watches footsteps and the walls, wary of falling or so on. He tries to be quiet as he goes, more to hear the others if he can, rather than for stealth purposes as he does have the light in hand.
A blink and Sinoe peers at Moriko, "You alright now?" She glances back toward the chakra source, frowning as she looks. She shakes her head, "Something is in here…I think it feeds on chakra." She nods her head and looks at Moriko again, "It was trying to feed on you…when you used chakra…" She points, "It attacked." She than turns to walk further down, "I don't know where Taji is."
Moriko frowns and glances around. "Oy…." she mutters, rubbing at her head. "We really need to find Taji something aweful, that and find our objective too." She states and frowns. "Wonder what it is that feeds on chakra as you're saying though." she states, rubs her chin, then frowns. "Fwee… most of my techniques use chakra…"
As Taji heads along the passage, the voices of Moriko and Sinoe would definitely drift down to him. And right around the corner, there they are! Apparently he must have wandered down the side-passage into that dead-end cave while under the effects of the mist. How else could he have gotten so far from the group? Either way, the group is reunited!
The cave continues further, and there are human bones littering the cave floor as Sinoe strides ahead. Some of them are wearing ninja clothing and weapons still. Most are recognizable as being from one country or another, though few have forehead protectors. Meaning that these remains probably predate the Hidden Villages for the most part. And nearly buried under one skeleton is an oak chest. The lock is broken, and from the looks of it, the man the skeleton belonged to was the one responsible, since one hand is still wedged into the opening between box and lid.
A quick check of the chest, if anyone cares to shift the skeleton aside to do so, would reveal there is a book or journal inside, and nothing else.
Taji tries to hide his obvious sense of relief when he returns to the others. He offers a nod, not wanting to speak as clearly something wrong is at play here. He eyes the bodies, the forehead protectors. His frown deepens, as if that is possible. He glances at the others, then looks to the surroundings, "Okay, this… something is going on here that was not in the mission briefing. This is something… bigger than just getting a chest back." He murmers as he tries to get the other team members reactions. He keeps his distance from the bodies, as if afraid they might stand up or something.
Looking at the bodies, Sinoe frowns, "Well, obviously there's something about this chest." She points at it, "That touching it might enrage whatever is in here with us." She nods, "It seems to feed on chakra." She ponders, "I think it might be best…" She looks back at Moriko, "For one of you two to take the chest." She nods.
Moriko frowns, and glances around the chest curiously, the girl looking for something out of the ordinary, beyond what else is going on here too. "Hmmm, I wonder if he was using chakra when he opened the chest? Or if maybe when he opened it, he let that thing out in the first place, and he was the first being it fell upon?"
The chest does not appear to be special in any way. There is no sign of any Seals, tags, or anything else attached to it, inside of it, or in its vicinity. It's just an oak chest. Whatever happened in the past, it does not appear that those who came afterwards were prepared for the creature or working in teams. Thus, just like Moriko, they likely attempted to use Chakra, were trapped in hallucinations, and then that >thing< got them… But with team mates, Moriko was spared such a fate, and Taji too, most likely. As long as no one uses any more Jutsu, it could be surmised that it is safe to abscond with the chest and report what happened.
Taji frowns as he studies the skeletons, "Whatever killed them, ate their flesh. Village protectors means those bodies aren't that old, shouldn't be skeletons yet." He comments, then turns his attention to the chest, "We're supposed to take the chest and whatever is inside. Ah, someone else want to carry it? Looks a bit heavy for me." He notes as he continues to check out the bodies, hoping to find any bit of evidence or clues that might still exist, say perhaps, notes about who hired them, how they knew about this place, that kind of thing. He'll even pause to pick up a few of the forehead protectors from the other villages. Evidence after all. "Wonder if these guys were hired by the same guy who hired us, and didn't bother to tell us he had so many failures…." He grumbles as he looks for more stuff, leaving the chest to a stronger teammate.
A blink and she shakes her head. Sinoe grabs the chest up with ease and then looks to Moriko, "Let's get out of here, fast." She nods, "We weren't tasked to fight crazy chakra eating monster beast thingies." She nods, "I don't know what is in here…but I am pretty sure we have completed the mission." She than starts heading out.
Mo blinks as she doesn't see any signs of extra tampering. She then shrugs and rubs at the back of her neck "Who'da thunk it." she mutters, "I suggest we make a fast-line toward the exit and report the presence of this creature here… no using chakra I dun think. Awefully simple for a B-rank." she states. "Course the chakra monster coulda made things bad really quick."