Date: March 18th, 2010
A mission to escort a foreign national seems to be going according to plan for once. That situation changes quickly.
"Broken Memories Pt. 1 - The First Tower"
Land of Fire - Fire/Sand Border
It has been approximately four and a half days of travel to reach the border of the Land of Fire. Ordinarily it could have been accomplished in two, but it would take time for the letter that the Hokage sent to reach its intended recipient, and then for that individual to make preparations and travel to the border on his own. And the individual being escorted is not a ninja, so it is unlikely he could make a similar trek to the border of the Land of Wind in a mere two days.
So the ninja team has had plenty of time to reach their destination, and should be well-rested. It is presently shortly after noon, and the weather is excellent. Spring is upon the Continent, and the heat of the Land of Wind leeches over to the Land of Fire to some degree at this location.
Sitting in the shade of a large tree was Toukai as he read his book awaiting the arrival of their mission. His lacklustered look was only there because he had other things on his mind as the clouds overhead flowed amongst the invisible wind streams overhead. From time to time he would look to the others making sure they were there and ready to spring into action in case it was necesssary. With a small sigh, Toukai rubs his neck and closes his book saying, "It's nearly time…."
Kuroji was crouched down towards the middle of the gathered shinobi. The image of a small bettle on the leaf of a plant, reflecting in his blue tinted shades, he tilts his head slightly to the right then to the left, before poking it once and watch it scurry away. "Hmmmm." escapes Kuroji's lips, his attitude was the same as always, through the course of this whole trip he had a smile on his face an had seemed to be in good spirits. As Toukai speaks, Kuroji looks up and rubs his goatee for a moment, the smile still on his face as he pushes up with his feet and slides his hands in his pocket. "I suppose time has been pasing." he says with a small node, his tone as carefree as ever.
Noab sits cross-legged, inspecting his axe for the umpteenth time. Not much else of use to do while awaiting an escort subject. :P Every so often, he scans the horizon, just out of habit. It's good to be on the lookout, but the odds of having trouble are fairly slim. Besides, the Aburame lad will probably get the location of the subject (or anyone else that comes near) before they even come into sight, let alone Noab's diminished vision. e.U
Coming from the direction of the desert that is dimly visible as a bright strip beyond a field of green, those paying attention may notice movement. It's not approaching very quickly by ninja standards, but it's still making steady progress. Unless the team goes to investigate, it would take another thirty minutes before it is clear that the approaching individuals are a mix of horse-drawn wagons, and people just riding on horses. It's not a large group, but it's not small either. Probably the person they've been sent to escort, along with his belongings and companions.
Dashing out of the forest about a mile or two away from the team on an intercept course are five individuals in a mix of forest camouflage and black clothing. They are headed directly for the approaching wagons, and they are moving at speeds that suggest that they are ninja.
Noab feels the light tremors in the earth from the approaching caravan before he can see or hear them. "Seems like our VIP is getting close," Noab grunts, pushing himself onto his feet. "Let's show 'em some discipline, now, we're Konoha shinobi, not rabble mercs. 'Ten-SHUN!" Noab bangs the bottom of his axe-cum-cane down in the dust, and stands ready to receive the dignitary's entourage.
That plan doesn't last long, though. Another of Noab's habitual horizon scans actually pays off this time. Noab scowls. "We've got unknown contact, most likely hostile. Kuroji-san, get to the caravan and protect them. Toukai-san, you're with me. Stay behind me until we get close, then surprise them. Try not to cause injury until we've ascertained their objective." With that, Noab tucks his axe into his belt and does a few handseals. His body poofs out into a huge ball, and he begins to roll swiftly across the plain, on an intercept course for the uknown shinobi.
As the orders were given, Toukai springs to his feet and puts his book away to stand aside Kuroji at attention. A bead of sweat rolls down his cheek as he's not used to such strict orders out in the field so tries to comply as much as possible. When the other shinobi were spotted, Noab gives out another set of orders and Toukai nods and prepares himself to engage the opposition with non-leathal force. He runs behind the enlargened spherical Akimichi using the casted shadows to extend his technique further than he could potentially do at such a time.
Kuroji was standing there at attention as Toukai came up next to him, perfectly still as a soft gust of wind caused his hair and black long coat to rustle. Then the information comes pouring out about the other Shinobi, and the new order comes and Kuroji is off, the typical smile on his face replaced with a staght face, as he moves towards the caravan, he extends his arms, his swarm circling around him, creating a loud buzz, his barefeet pressing against the sand between each movement getting closer to his objective.
Noab giant-sizes and comes rolling through, flattening the grass beneath him and plowing up the ground a bit, the five unknown ninja take notice. And then they stop where they are in amazement, instead of leaping aside or acting to defend themselves like well-trained ninja probably would. One of them finally turns around and tries to run away, but the other four just stand there and shake in their boots.
They don't even seem to be aware that Toukai is sending out shadows to trap them too. Kuroji, meanwhile, reaches the caravan without difficulty, since the wagons keep riding out to meet him. The men on horseback eventually signal for a halt when they notice that there appears to be some sort of conflict going on, and then draw curved blades from their sheathes, and wait to see who Kuroji is, and what he wants. They can't assume he's going to protect them, after all. All they saw was one team of ninja get attacked by another group of the same. And Sunagakure is not exactly on peaceful terms with Konohagakure right now.
Noab morphs back to his usual size and shape, regaining his feet and dusting himself off. Hrm, that was /too/ easy. Noab leans on his cane and eyes the unknown nin sharply. "All right, nobody moves, nobody gets hurt! You there, Danny Deserter! Get back here and fall in with your unit!" >( Noab points fiercely at the main group, as if the sheer command in his voice could compel the runner to return (hey, stranger things have happened). "I am Akimichi Noab, Jounin of Konohagakure, but you will address me as SIR! Whoever's in command of this unit, I want answers! Who are you, and what is your business with that caravan?!"
Toukai takes off after the one that fled and turns up the speed to catch up to him. When he gets close enough, the young Nara makes another handseal and launches his shadow at the ninja in hopes of ensnaring him and brining him back to the others.
Kuroji sees the horsemen draw their swords and when he is close enough that he feels he can protect the caravan and talk to them without them attacking, he slides in the sand sideways facing the conflict,his face still staight as he sees how it is going, "Aburame Kuroji." he says to the horseman, pushing up his blue tinted shades, "A Chuunin from the Konohagkure team, here to Escort and Gaurd the Foreign National to Konohagkure." he says offering them a small thumbs up, his swarm still swirling around him as he waits to see what happens, keeping a eye on the Caravan and the horseman too.
The one running doesn't even look back when the yelling starts, but he stops when Toukai grabs hold of his shadow. He's now stuck in the same position as Toukai, and has to do everything Toukai does! As long as the Nara has the Chakra to spend, that is. The main group, when yelled at, all start babbling at once. They seem completely terrified and don't even have any visible weapons on them. Aside from the camoflauge cloaks and the speed they were running at, there are, infact, no indications that these are even ninja. They have no hita-ite (forehead protectors), or anything! What's going on here!?
When Kuroji announces who he is to the horsemen, they relax a bit, but only towards him. They keep their eyes on the other conflict going on distantly. "What is this all about?" one of the horsemen asks. "Are those bandits? And here I thought only the desert had such poor excuses for human beings. Then again, I suppose that the Land of Fire doesn't have anything to keep their bandits in check, like the Ghou—"
He's interrupted by another horseman riding up, all in light-colored cloak, hood, and mouth-concealing cloth scarf. And coming from the horse'man' is a woman's voice! "Enough idle-chatter. If you and your team are the escorts, then the business of my guards is done. We now turn over Doctor Uudo and his researchers to your care, Aburame Kuroji. Do not make me regret doing so. I have a reputation as a responsible guard service to uphold, and if it turns out this is some ruse… I will personally hunt you down." She glares at Kuroji balefully, and then starts rounding up her guardsmen to prepare to return to their own country. Once they have confirmed that Noab and Toukai are up to the task of escorting the good doctor, at least. They aren't going to ride off in the middle of what appears to be an interrupted ambush.
If there's really an attack going on, these guys must be a diversion. >.U Noab glances back at the caravan to make sure there aren't any problems there, then turns his attention back to his prisoners. "SILENCE!!!" he barks. Noab sizes them up, then points at the one he judges to be the most competent. "You! I'm promoting you to pro-tem officer of this pack of play-time ninja. /You/ tell me what you're doing here."
Toukai returns shortly after as he places the runner directly in front of Noab and releases him. Toukai remains close by just in case they attempt to fight their way out. He signals Kuroji with an 'All secure' hand gesture and returns to watching over this rag-tag group of ninja.
Kuroji kept his attention on what was going on with the rest of his team as the horseman spoke, "I can not speak as to what is going on. We simply saw another party moving to intercept the caravan and intercepted them." Kuroji says slowly, his tone rather simple and flat, As the horsewoman addresses him, he listens, does not comment on first, he is confused as to what is going on all the way over there. It doesn't seem like there is any short of fight going on from what he can see. "Yes, we are the team from Konohagakure. No this is not a Ruse." is all Kuroji says as he scans around him slowly, he sees Toukai's signal for all clear, he looks around one last time but doesn't see anything still he looks on edge, something feels wrong. "Before you start getting ready to have your men leave, instead perhaps we can get them ready. This isn't over yet." is all he says rather flattly, as he raises his right hand and returning the all clear signal, but quickly follows it with a holdfast signal.
When the 'ninja' are told to shut up, they cringe and do so. The 'leader' appointed by Noab answers after a few seconds and some 'go ahead, man!' looks from his fellows. "Uhh, this guy came up to us, and paid us to put on these cloaks and take some medicine he said would make us as strong and fast as ninja! He said all we had to do was wait in the forest until a caravan came along, and then run out to meet them. H-He said that once we got the caravan to the forest, he'd pay us a second time. We don't know who he was, we don't know why he wants the caravan guarded, or anything else! Please don't kill us! We were just trying to make some money!"
The others join in on pleading for their lives and explaining all their various personal woes and why they deserve to live and so on.
Meanwhile, as Kuroji is signalling to the others, the ground beneath him begins to tremble. The trembling is not just beneath the Aburame Chuunin, however, and is also going on all around. The horses begin to panic, some of them tossing their riders off before going running off in fear. Then the trembling becomes quite a bit more intense, until the earth can be seen bouncing up and down, and tiny particles of dirt almost seem to 'hop' up and down. Finally, right as one of the horsemen is carried away on his mount, a pillar of stone shoots up out of the ground at hundreds of miles per hour, right underneath the two of them. The rear half of the horse falls out of the sky a few seconds later. The front half, and the man who was riding the horse, are nowhere to be seen. The stone pillar keeps rising up and up and up, a streak of granite and bedrock that towers up to the heavens!
And that is exactly what it is. It's a tower. The shaking of the ground subsides slowly over the next couple minutes, but the tower remains. The structure appears to be about 80 feet in diameter at the base — the base being made up of unformed rock from the depths of the earth. It then narrows gradually into a man-made tower at the very top. It must be at least a mile high in total.
Where did it come from? Why is it here? Good questions, but ones that go unanswered, at least for now. The men that Noab was questioning completely freak out and try to run away again during all this.
Yup, diversion. u.U "Can it, worms! You're probably in more danger from those pills you popped than anything else! Now you're going to—" Noab cuts off his tirade when he feels the rumbling. "Blast it! Get to the caravan! Protecting them is our first priority!" Noab heads off on a roll again, to join with the caravan. Arriving in the vicinity, he stops and looks up. "No idea what that thing is, but it can't be friendly," he growls. "Everyone retreat with all speed, I'll see if I can't trip up their plans." Noab inhales slowly, glaring at the tower. This is going to take a lot of chakra…
Toukai chuckles slightly at how nervous these guys are, but understand completely. It wasn't until Kuroji's holdfast signal came back that made Toukai get on alert himself and the frantic ramblings of the men gave merit to the Aburame's assumptions. "Sir I be-" Before Toukai could finish his sentence the tower erupts from the ground causing mass panic to everyone present save for those who are trained for this type of thing. Toukai looks to the top of the tower and runs after Noab completely ignoring the captives. As he reaches the base with the rest of the caravan and Kuroji he sihgs saying, "Nothing ever goes to plan does it? How bothersome…" Pulling out a few tags, Toukai molds his chakra to make sure that he's ready for whatever is going to be encountered from here on out.
Kuroji looks down as the ground beneath him starts to shake, thinking to himself that of course it was starting to look to easy. He moves from spot to spot quickly trying to make it to the target VIP, his swarm buzzing around him as he watches first the particles of dirt bounce up and down, ignoring the various bits of chaos around him, caused by the horses panicing. Then the tower shoots out of the ground and Kuroji arches a eyebrow and looks at it for a second, "Oro?" escapes his lips as he tilts his head a bit to the right, before moving back to his search then Noab arrives and tells everyone to retreat, he keeps moving through wagon to wagon, til he finds the Doctor, "Doctor, I need you to stay close to me for your protection." he says calmly as he turns and looks as the rest of his team catches up.
As the tower looms high in the sky, Noab seems to be planning to do something to it. However, as everyone runs for it, even the horseman guards, towards the relative safety of the forests of the Land of Fire, the tower does nothing. Whatever Noab may have wanted to do seems to be unnecessary. No sudden attacks lash out, no enemies appear… Aside from occasional boulders raining down from above as the rock the tower was torn up from settles into relative stability, the tower does not seem to be an actual threat — for now, at least. Attacking it one-one-one when its very purpose is unknown seems to be a bad idea. Thus, it is left to Noab to rejoin his allies and get away from there, since the objective of the mission is to protect Doctor Uudo and his companions, and >not< to smash strange towers.
Soon, the team, the wagons, and everyone else, are on their way back to Konohagakure. The tower stands tall in the background. What is its purpose, if not to attack? Even the two white-haired men standing watch from nearby tree tops seem not to know. Though one of the men does comment. "So… It has begun already." The other man, in an identical voice, due to being the first man's twin, says, "Good. I was getting bored. Now we can finally have some fun!" The two nod to each other simultaneously, and then they go leaping through the trees…