Date: June 1, 2011
Team 5 of Konohagakure leads the way in scouting for traps, ambushes, or similar unpleasant surprises that might be lying in wait for the bulk of the Leaf shinobi who will be passing through the forest a bit later. This means returning to Ankoku Cave and facing whatever evil lurks there now…
Warning: Contains foul language.
"Broken Memories Pt. 3 - Flight Into the Unknown"
Ankoku Cave - Land of Fire
A day and a half of travel from Konohagakure, north through the forests of the Land of Fire, and finally to 'the place where bad dreams come to die'. Along the way, extreme caution has been paid to the environment. Any potential place for a trap to be placed that might impair, injure, or kill the rest of the Leaf forces who would arrive in another half a day (unless informed to do otherwise) is inspected rigorously. Even an old, moss-covered log that is lying by the side of the trail is checked inside of for explosive tags or similar. Fuyu's experience as 'bodyguard' to Madara and 'security chief' for the Uchiha Clan as a whole during the Clan Wars serves her well, but she can not be everywhere at once. Further, the different view points of Team 5 can cover more possibilities than just one paranoid kunoichi.
Eventually, however, there are no more places to check and no more excuses to delay. Ankoku Cave lies before them. Hinotori and Nobu have not been here, but they have likely heard about it by now — at LEAST from Taji, if not Fuyu. The cave does not look as it did the last time Fuyu and Taji were here, but to the eyes of the others all they would see is the forest at the base of a cliff. Some of the foliage looks unhealthy, or slightly withered, but this is not the miasma-ridden, death-choked, unnatural cess pool of raw evil that it was in the past. The cave entrance is still sealed shut through a combination of the tunnel collapsing, and intense heat making the rock turn molten in the past.
It has long-since cooled, of course. Now, however there is no clear way to get inside at this level. Fuyu looks around carefully, trying to see some indication that this place is still the abode of a ghost or a monster… But it looks and feels NOTHING like it did before. There is no residual malice that she can feel. Nothing unusual anywhere. Well, now what?
The day and a half of travel has been tense, at least for Taji. Rather than a nice comforatable trip, he's been on edge the entire time. Each snap of a twig has been at least glanced at, if not investigated. Each sign of recent passage of whatever crossed the path at least looked at, if not inspected. This probably has lead to a slower pace than would normally be called for but as the group is fearful or at least prepared for potential traps, the slower pace seems appropriate. AFter all, if teh group is scouting, best to scout well enough to ensure those following don't get caught by traps the group accidently bypassed.
As the group approaches the cave, Taji's level of tension seems to increase, jittery might be the best word for it. This is at least his second visit to the cave. The first was a bit of a disaster, back when the evil was still here, the last one things seemed better but even if things seem better still now, Taji is on guard, defensive.
As the group approaches the cave entrance Taji frowns and examines the stone, slowly walking up to it to see just how 'sealed' the entrance is and if there are any signs of holes or cracks that might be used to break an entrance. He rests his hand on the now cool previously lava surface and looks lost in thought for a moment, closing his eyes briefly as he tries to sense if anything active is still near. After a moment he opens his eyes, "I don't feel anything nearby, but us. At least right in the immediate area…." He comments to the others. Then he backs from the wall and looks up at the cliff, "What's the plan? Look for another entrance? Break in this one? Or?" He glances to Fuyu, looking for some sort of direction.
For Nobu, the journey out here isn't a big deal, despite the work involved. He doesn't exactly enjoy the job, no, but he sees no reason for complaint. He simply does not work that way, really. He's perfectly willing to put his head down and get through a task. Finally, the group comes to Ankoku Cave, and he finds it… rather unremarkable, really. The plants nearby don't look great, sure, but he could probably find several other places with that same problem in five minutes if he had to. No, this place doesn't live up to its reputation at all, it seems. Actually, now he's wondering exactly what it is Team 5 is supposed to be doing here. He takes a minute to examine the sealed entrance and the face of the cliff, then looks over to Fuyu, waiting to see if she'll give them some kind of further instructions.
Fuyu continues scanning the area for only a moment longer. She did not see the tunnel get sealed previously, as she was much deeper in the cave and wound up coming out in a different location when she was rescued. But it is fairly obvious this entrance is no longer a way in. Or is it? She examines the misshapen stone more closely, especially after Taji examines it with her senses. "…This entrance leads directly into the part of the cave most heavily-saturated with evil and malice. If we're going to pass through the cavern's tunnels I'd rather find a place a bit removed. When the Hokage, Hyuuga Clan Head, and an Aburame Jounin sought me out after I was trapped inside… I managed to blast a hole in the wall when I stumbled out of the densest part of that… Black mist or whatever it was. They noticed the explosion, and I am told they rescued me. That means there are other places we can enter. I don't think we should go looking for that particular way in, as it is far enough out of the way that the rest of our ninja will catch up to us before we're done doing our job."
Fuyu takes a breath and then lets it out. "We should scout for other ways in, but we can't afford to spend too much time doing so. If we can't find a convenient entrance that's close enough, we'll just have to come back here and break open this tunnel." Looking at first Nobu, and then Taji, the Uchiha woman says, "Split up. Try not to leave line-of-sight too much, if possible, and don't leave hearing range no matter what. Staying hidden at this point is less of a priority than making sure no one and nothing else is hidden in this area. While we shouldn't be announcing our presence, if you need to call out, do so."
She waits to make sure the other two understand and have no questions, and then she starts to leap up towards the cliff face that the now-sealed cave entrance is set at the base of. As she clings to the sheer stone surface, she thinks to turn her head and look down at Nobu and Taji, with her Sharingan already active. "…And if you start feeling strange, or seeing anything weird, do your very best to get the attention of the rest of us immediately. I don't care if it's 'probably nothing'. This place does things to your head. It's worse than Genjutsu, because it becomes WORSE the more Chakra you use. Genjutsu Kai will be useless. Alright?" She waits once more for confirmation.
Taji nods, "Got it. Scout around. Split up, stay close enough to be seen or at least heard." He glances around, taking in the area then looking up as Fuyu heads up the cliff face. "Nobu, you want to go to the left and I go to the right?" He suggests, as he glances at the sickly undergrowth and starts moving towards the right, looking wary as he goes. "I'm going to see if there are any other entrances at this level." He says, speaking more loudly as he goes so that people can hear him, keeping in 'link' that way at least.
As Taji moves off the main path he is careful about where he steps, eyeing for any thing like signs of smaller cave entrances, strange smells or air flows that could be coming from the ground, or anything that might show some kind of alternate entrance. He's going slowly, no rapid leaps or anything like that. After a moment he pulls out a collapsable stick and tests the ground as he goes, tapping and listening for sounds of anything hollow, also tapping the cliff wall as he goes, looking for the same kind of possible hollow sound. His progress is slow as he keeps pausing every so often to sense if anything is around, chakra or otherwise apparently.
"I understand, Fuyu-sama," Nobu acknowledges, then gives a nod to Taji. "I'll take the left." With that, he turns and heads foward, sticking close to the cliff face. If he goes into the woods, he figures, he's risking leaving the others' sight. He also makes sure to listen for their sounds, occasionally as well. If he can hear them, they must be able to hear him, after all. For his own part, he prefers to stick to visual clues, but he remembers to be aware of smell, sound, and touch as well. Anything that might indicate an opening nearby, whether it's air blowing from inside the cave or the sound of something scurrying around inside. And of course, there might still be the possibility of traps about.
Fuyu continues up the cliff face, using the Chakra emitted from her feet to stick to the surface until she reaches the flatter area at the top. She us high up, but also right on the edge of the cliff. If she moves from here, she'll be out-of-sight to those on the ground below. Thankfully she doesn't have to move, because in front of her and above, only about 100 yards distant, there is a second cave entrance. She doesn't know if it links into the same tunnel network as the one on ground level did, but it is reasonable to assume it does.
With her Sharingan she can see that there is an odd, muted 'purplish' coloration to the cave and the surrounding stone walls. It is Chakra of a sort… Or something similar. But it is bleeding away gradually. It does not look as volatile and potent as the energies that infused the main cave entrance when it was still open. Even so… For the very EARTH to have Chakra infused into it… This has to be a way in.
"…Well, that was easy enough." She turns to call out to the others, "I found a way in up here!" Then she waits for the other two members of Team 5 to join her as she keeps both eyes on the entrance and the surrounding area. No mind-tricks will catch her unawares THIS time.
Taji slowly makes his way to the right, poking at things and generally taking his time. He pauses at one point and kneels to examine something on the ground. He tilts his head then looks up at the cliff, as if expecting to perhaps see a cave entrance half way up on the cliff wall. He shrugs though, not seeing any obvious opening from where he is. "Bats…" He mutters as he stands back up, "Well, they must be coming from some where…" He keeps eyeing the cliff then starts to continue his slow walk along the base of the cliff, still poking and proding things as he goes.
As he moves further along he starts to glance back, worried about losing his range on the others. Since all Fuyu has to do is climb straight up to find her entrance, and wasn't talking all that long, this is about all Taji gets to before he hears her call. He hesitates then glances up, "Should we come up?" He calls out, "Or keep looking along the cliff?" He asks, as he waits at the base of the cliff at his spot, keeping an eye out for possible oddities and still trying to sense if anything active might be near him. He lacks the sensing of the occularly gifted clans, but still he can sense the larger chakra concentrations, if they are heading his way. Hopefully that will provide some early warning of the 'beast' or whatever this thing is decides to head in the direction of the group.
Continuing along the cliff face, Nobu pauses for a moment to take a look around. It seems there's nothing of particular interest, so he starts going once more. But then something catches his eye, and he stops again. It's subtle at first, but as he looks at the rock in front of him, he sees it— the image of a face. For a moment, it strikes him as innocent enough, perhaps just a trick of the eyes. However, when Fuyu calls out to them, he remembers her warning. It could be some rocks, that have randomly eroded and produced a human face by pure accident, but Nobu knows it could be something much worse. He has to say something.
Moving much quicker than when he left it, he hurries back to the original entrance and calls up to Fuyu. "I've spotted something," he tells her, "I think it's one of the illusions you mentioned. It looked like a face in the rocks."
Fuyu answers Taji swiftly. "Yes, come up here for now. We only need one way in. If this turns out to be a dead-end… Then we can still unseal the first tunnel instead of wasting time searching again." When she hears Nobu call out as well, before the Chuunin is even done explaing she has turned around to look down the cliff at him. "I see. If it had gotten into your head already, I'm not sure you'd have been able to just walk away. But the over-all presence here is… Weaker. I can see the Chakra of this place still saturates this entrance, but I can't 'feel' the evil like I could before. It might be too weak to stop you…"
She turns and looks back at the cave. It sits there, glowing dull and steady with energies invisible to most people. Then she turns and looks back in the direction that Nobu came from. She sees nothing in particular that way. But then, that's how it was back then too. It's not Genjutsu and it's not just Chakra. Sharingan can not 'see through' these illusions, because it gets into one's own Chakra network and twists it until one no longer sees anything except what one is MEANT to see. Further, if one falls deeply enough into the illusion… It can stop being an illusion. It can become physical reality.
So would she really KNOW if she was looking at the wicked presence of Ankoku Cave or not? Doubtful. But the entrance is right here, and if this is nothing special… "It's a risk to use jutsu too much here… I'm going to have to let my Sharingan sleep for now, even. And we'll have to rely on what tools we have available instead of sensing techniques to navigate once we enter the cave too. But I'll investigate this 'face in the rocks' before we proceed. Join me up here while I do that." Then she puts her hands together and silently utters, 'Kage Bunshin no Jutsu! <Shadow Clone Technique!>' in her head.
Her Sharingan is already gone from her eyes before a duplicate of herself appears next to her. Without needing to be ordered, the Shadow-Fuyu begins running off at a semi-subdued pace to the general location that Nobu saw that face. When the the Shadow Clone leaps down to ground level and starts searching, it takes only a few seconds to find the face. It's pretty noticeable. Further… She thinks she recognizes it.
"…." is all the Shadow-Fuyu has to say as she stares at the features of a face she has never truly trusted but has been allied with at least a few times now. "…So this is where you wound up, Rain? For some reason I thought you'd be further inside." The Clone eyes the stone face suspiciously, and then takes a deep breath and reaches out one hand to touch the face's forehead. It's here for a reason, after all. Does it hold some hint or clue to how to defeat this ghost-who-walks…?
Taji is off to the other side and has seen no faces or other such strange supernatural or anthromorphic stone formations. Instead he's left just shrugging and collapsing the staff back down to stick into his pack. "Okay, on my way up." He glances at the cliff then after a moment decides to head back to the sealed entrance and retrace Fuyu's steps up, rather than going up here, in an unscouted area. It takes him a tad to get back to the starting point. He watches the clone come down as he returns to the sealed cave entrance.
"What do you see?" Taji calls out, looking towards the left, where Nobu was before (and perhaps still is). "Is it an illusion or real?" He asks as he readies himeslf to head up the cliff face to join the real Fuyu. It takes him longer than it did his team leader, both because he's not as sure footed and because he's being careful as he goes and glancing back down towards where the 'face' in the rocks might be.
Taji still is edgy, be it from the whole ambience of this place or just his worries from his last two visits. Either way after the mentioning of using too much jutsu might get one into trouble, Taji ceases any of his primitive sensing attempts, closing himself off from the possiblity of his very sensing being an opening to be further 'infected' by the dark chakra of this place. Of course if it really is a big risk he may be too late but it's worth an effort. He finally gets up to where the real Fuyu is and glances around and at the cave entrance up above the lower one, this one seeming far more 'open' at least.
Considering what Fuyu's just said about avoiding the use of chakra, Nobu figures he's just going to have to get up this cliff the old fashioned way. Admittedly, Fuyu herself seems to be using some ninjutsu herself with no problem, but everything Nobu's been told indicates he probably shouldn't take any risks if he doesn't have to. Fortunately, he's pretty good at climbing, even without the aid of chakra. He watches Fuyu's clone head off to the face he saw before. Fuyu doesn't seem to have thought much of it, which is of some comfort, but he's still somewhat anxious about exactly what he saw down there.
Fuyu's Shadow Clone, upon touching the stone face, would witness the rigid mineral eyelids opening suddenly, revealing two eyes of flesh and blood. The eyes bear Sharingan of a non-standard design… They are Mangekyou Sharingan, but not of the type possessed by Madara initially, his now-deceased brother Izuna, or the 'Eternal' Mangekyou Sharingan that Madara possesses in the present.
This is a new design. A new pattern. One that resembles what can almost be described as a black and red 'x' in each pupil. Even if the Shadow Clone leaps backwards right this very moment or otherwise breaks contact, it is too late. The moment the Shadow-Fuyu makes eye-contact… The same thing that Fuyu herself is so proficient in is cast upon her. A Genjutsu of such great strength that it cannot even be classified in the manner other techniques are. Tsukuyomi hits Fuyu's Shadow Clone full force.
Seconds pass, and then it is over. The eyes slowly sink shut and turn back into mere stone. The realistic features become rougher, less-detailed, and eventually the face itself crumbles and falls away, leaving only a deteriorating cliff face.
Is that it?
Fuyu's Shadow Clone is but a construct of Chakra. It possesses no true 'life' of its own. But it is so utterly devastated by the Tsukuyomi that it vanishes. It is 'destroyed' or at least 'cancelled'. It is gone, and the experiences of the Clone are passed on to the original Fuyu. A very long period of time passes for Fuyu all at once. It took but three seconds for her Shadow Clone to experience it, but those experiences FELT like much, MUCH longer. Long enough, and filled with such extreme and exhausting illusions, that though no answer comes to Taji about seeing anything, an answer is provided shortly regardless.
Fuyu wavers on her feet, weaving back and forth for a moment, and then her eyes roll up into her head and she simply falls forward. Whether she is caught or if people are too surprised to even try, the end result is the same. Fuyu is no longer conscious, and she is unlikely to wake up for a very long time.
Taji had just gotten to the top and was evaluating the cave entrance on the 'upper' level when things seemed to go wrong. He was on edge and jittery already so he fortunately is on guard for anything out of the ordinary. He wasn't expecting this kind of result but when Fuyu starts to waver and fall, Taji is there, quickly and smoothly to catch her and guide her safely to the ground to lay prone. He frowns, "What the……" He mutters as he checks over Fuyu quickly to make sure there are no obvious wounds and that she's still breathing.
Taji calls out towards Nobu, "Hey! Nobu! Fuyu just… passed out! Are you okay down there? Can you get up here… quickly?" Hopefully that won't take long since Nobu was already on his way up before. Still, Taji wants to encourage speed as he tries to do his best to figure out just what is wrong with Fuyu!
Hearing Taji's call, Nobu hurries up the rest of the cliff face and climbs up onto the top. He looks down at Fuyu, then kneels down and takes her wrist to feel for a pulse. "Well, she's still alive, at least," he notes, then looks over to Taji. "What happened?" he asks. He manages to remain fairly calm, but he certainly doesn't feel it. Without Fuyu, it's not clear hwo to proceed from here. Aborting the mission doesn't seem like an option, but pressing on seems just foolhardy. Actually, it seemed foolhardy even /with/ Fuyu. "Let's see if we can wake her up," he decides, "You wouldn't happen to have a first aid kit? Or just some smelling salts?"
The daylight has waned both during the approach to Ankoku Cave and during the inspection following the team's arrival. It is now early evening, and though some degree of light remains as a result of being so close to summer, things are not as bright as they were earlier. The sun is setting. Soon, it will be too dark to readily make out the environment. If whatever happened to Fuyu is the result of an enemy, then identifying that enemy's location, let alone defeating or avoiding him or her (or >it<), will be very difficult.
And that is when the situation goes from 'bad' to 'more bad'. An unseasonably cold breeze blows through suddenly, heading west — the direction that Fuyu was facing before she fell. Leaves, dust and dirt, small rocks, and eventually twigs and other heavier objects all start to shift and move in the breeze, being blown towards the west. But the truth of the matter is that they are >not< being 'blown'. The feeling of >suction< and of being >pulled< would likely be evident to both Taji and Nobu. The sensation of something tugging on them, not only on the clothes but flesh as well, is no doubt unnerving and unusual.
The really bad part comes when a hollow, muffled sound, like one might hear if one were underwater when a large and heavy object dropped into that water, rings out in this relatively quiet part of the forest. Immediately, the suction becomes so powerful that the three ninja are likely to start being physically moved unless they hang onto something sufficiently sturdy and well-anchored. Even Fuyu's unconscious body would scrape across the ground if not held in place. A howling wind that blocks out most sound roars over and around the three of them, leading towards…
…An >emptiness<. A darkened hole in the air itself lies about a hundred feet to the west. A hole that is terrible familiar… A hole that is not just a hole but a >Void<. It clings and pulls to them with an insatiable hunger. It may simply be the imagination, but it >almost< sounds like the snarls and growls of some savage beast accompany the roar of inwards-moving wind. Regardless, the Void clearly serves only one purpose in being here.
It is meant to >devour them<.
Having been delayed back in the village due to a bit of a mix up with assignments. Granted Hinotoris other priorities to the village withstanding, he was given permission to join Team 5 is original team. Though was told to make sure to report as much as he could on his return, knowing that it was going to take some time to get to his team. Uchiha Hinotori flits through the trees, worry was flowing through him, Uchiha Madara provided them this intell. Why would he even come back to warn us, why did he care. He left the Uchiha instead of staying to try to keep things going for the clan.
This didn't feel well to Hinotori, but now his team was already at or should be closing in at the Ankoku Caves. He's heard some of the information about the cave, but he himself has never been there and right now he didn't know what to expect. Activating his Sharingan, Hinotori allowed his enhance sight to help him look for those who may be following him, or to help him find hidden traps. He does slow himself down a bit so that way he didn't clumsily set off one.
Keeping his momentum, Hinotori is able to make it to his team, but as he nears the cave, he too feels the suction. But quickly trying to locate his team was first, fighting against the suction, Hinotori finds his team, but as the sounds from the void becomes more appearant Hinotori looks to the direction of where the suction is coming from and frowns, "Shit another one here." he says as he quickly deactivates his sharingan. "Are you two alright?" he yells out towards Nobu and Taji. He struggles to remain in place, using Chakra emitted from his feet to stick to the ground as he moves to assist in keeping Fuyu from going anywhere.
Taji unslings his backpack and starts digging through, "Well, she just fell over. Do you know what happened down there? It looks like something knocked her out cold. She just wobbled and then fell out cold, but I caught her." He digs in the backpack and pulls out a relatively well stocked medical kit and starts to dig through for something when… the pulling feelings tarts. Taji freezes and then slowly looks in the direction of the pulling, before it gets too strong that is.
The contents of Taji's medical kit weren't meant to be opened in a strong sucking wind. Taji quickly closes it, although a few things likely go from the kit towards the hole. "Crap." Taji, ever the master of understatement. He slings his backpack back over his shoulder with one hand as he grabs on to Fuyu with the other. Trying to get the pack in place and balanced, he then tries to hold on to Fuyu with two hands and channels chakra to his feet to try to help hold him into place.
"Nobu! We have to get away from that thing!" He struggles to hold Fuyu and his pack, "Come on!" And with that Taji heads towards the cave entrance, "Get inside! If we can get into the cave and close it, the thing can't suck us in!" He tries to pull Fuyu in towards the cave with himself, trying to pull his team leader to safety. Treatment has been forgotten in the face of this immediate threat.
The arrival of Hinotori catches Taji by surprise, "Help me get Fuyu into the cave, or at least away from the void! We can't risk losing her… or ourselves!" He calls out over the sucking sounds, the growls and the like. With that Taji tries to move the body into the cave, looking to both Hinotori and Nobu for help. Most of Taji's medical kit is sucked away by this point, but he did manage to save his back pack at least. So maybe has other supplies still.
It doesn't take Nobu too long to realize that the tugging seems to have no apparent source. And whatever that means, it's undoubtedly a bad thing. On the plus side, it makes the decision of what to do much easier. "We should go," he tells Taji, "You lift her by the legs, I'll lift by the head." Unfortunately, this plan is stopped, at least temporarily, by the increasing strength of the pulling. He quickly grabs onto the nearest handy, solid rock formation, then tries to grab for Fuyu herself by whatever part is available. Having your team leader knocked unconscious is bad, but having her sucked into a black hole is considerably worse.
Nobu does not like the idea of going into the cave one bit. It could provide them shelter, maybe, but it's not as if the cave itself is a place of safety. It would be a far better idea, in his opinion, to just leave the area entirely. Sadly, he doesn't really have any way to argue this with the situation the way it is. He carefully lets go of the rock to secure his hold on Fuyu, then starts trying to pull her in the direction of the cave.
Fighting against the winds and the suction of the void, looking to the two team members and trying to help with keeping Fuyu from moving or being sucked up by the void. Hinotori makes sure not to look towards the void. He remembers the feeling about it makign him want to look at it, "Make sure to not look at that void." he reminds the other two as loud as he can. When Taji states that they should go into the cave, he thought that they too should leave the area, but then again it would make it a hard climb down the cave itself, but also going in through where ever they found a entrance into the cave may be easier, "Alright, we don't have a lot of time, lets go." he says as he looks between Nobu and Taji, "I will take her down." he says, "Go ahead of me." he says as he moves to take Fuyu's unconcious form. "We gotta hurry."
The suction coming from the Void does not diminish, but the ninja making use of the Chakra control gained via the Tree Walking technique manage to stay stuck to the ground and are apparently far enough away that they can actually make headway in moving towards the cave entrance, albeit slowly and with difficulty, one step at a time. When Team 5, including its unconscious leader, are only about 10' away from the unlit interior of this hole that leads into the mountain, the Void seems to become displeased with the prospect of its victims escaping — if such is even possible for a force of non-existence such as this. There is no reason to think it is self-aware or similar.
And yet… The suction becomes even >stronger<. Pieces of the mountain that the cave leads into crack, crumble, and are pulled away into the shrieking anomaly. Rocks as big as Taji's head fly through the air, shooting past with velocity that could smash a human skull as though it were wet cardboard. The distance between the ledge that everyone was originally on and the threshhold of the tunnel is short. Two feet at most. It is an agonizing 60 seconds of straining, concentrating as hard as possible on maintaining the hold on the ground that is the only thing keeping them from vanishing forever, and trying not to be hit by large rocks, but when it is over… Team 5 is successfully out of the direct effects of the Void. The difference is immediately noticeable.
The Void wails a hollow, mournful, tortured sound, like gale force winds blowing through the trees. The anomaly seems to become thinner, simultaneously stretching upwards and collapsing inwards, as though being pinched shut by some invisible pair of fingers.
Then the suction dies away and is gone. The Void remains, a >wound< in the universe itself, but it no longer feeds on the world around it. It simply remains, scarring reality with its wrongness.
And it is now night time in an unlit cave with a rather unsavory reputation. It is ironic that they struggled so hard to escape one dark hole, only to find themselves in another.