Date: March 5th, 2010
Two Chuunin and a Genin are dispatched to find a missing archaeologist. Upon only discovering a corpse at his camp, the mission becomes upgraded above C-rank, at which point they return to the Village to report their findings.
"Dust In The Wind"
Desert outside of Sunagakure
There were reports of an eccentric — but wealthy — archaeologist of Sunagakure returning home recently. Eedo Uudo was famed for his many amazing discoveries about the history of humanbeings, including where Ninjutsu originated, and so forth. He has unlocked much information for the Land of Wind, which has assisted in keeping the desert-dwelling people alive. And now, after having left three years ago, he has returned to the place where Sunagakure has been built.
But he never arrived last night. Uudo's colleagues have thus hired a ninja team to find the famous explorer and researcher, and make sure he arrives safely. It is shortly after noon, so the sun is still high in the sky, sending waves of heat beating down on the desert. Ruri is ready to go, and stands just outside the Village. 'I hope this guy isn't dead already…' she thinks to herself. 'Sounds like we'd be pretty bad off if we lost him.' The brunette glances around, knowing her sister is on this team, but not who the final member is.
Three members, two Chuunin and a Genin. Which to Rinako's mind either meant they were all the clients could afford, all the village could spare, or they thought them more than adequate. Having received her assignment, Rurohashi Rinako had gathered her things, for once without reluctance, and departed to the mission meeting place, the village gates. As a vapid lover of shinobi culture, the teenaged girl wasn't about to allow such a prominent researcher to come to harm.
Or at least give him a proper burial if he had.
"Imouto-chan." It was a simple enough greeting, the girl wearing her 'business face' as her sandals kick up sand walking out of the village gates, reaching up behind her to tie still-wet hair into a messy ponytail. Wherever she had been conscripted out of for the mission, it had been somewhere wet. "Has the other arrived, yet? I heard it's a boy this time. I /really/ hope we don't have to babysit him." Her eyes cut to the side, a sly glance towards her twin. "You know how men can be."
Kichiro lopes along at acasual pace. his long legs carrying him quickly down the path despite his slow seeming pace of walking. He travels barefoot over the hot sand, not seeming to be bothered by the sun as it bares down. His travel bag is slung loosely over over shoulder and he raises the opposite arm to wave to the two he was sent here to meet. "hoy hoy. I'm here.. I'm not late am I?" his demeanor is very casual, his posture slouched, the way he stands its hard to tell how tall he is really.
Ruri glances over as she hears her sister approach and call out. "Nee-chan. No, he hasn't. I wasn't told who it was eitherk, but they're probably going to send a Jounin or another Chuunin. I know there's some big thing happening to the north-east with a sudden uprising of bandits, but there's no reason to think they sent ALL of our experienced ninja to deal with it—"
Then she spots someone approaching. Barefoot over the sand and moving slowly, like they have all the time in the world. She really hopes this isn't the final member of their impromptu team. Her hopes are dashed when he addresses them. She sighs towards the older twin, before turning her attention back on the boy. "…No, not late. But we should get going. We can introduce ourselves along the way." She might not be the 'official' leader of the team (yet) but she was the one who was given the mission assignment, so she feels she is obligated to at least provide motivation.
Ruri turns and starts dashing across the sand, heading along the road to the east. They'll have to break off into the desert proper soon enough, but until then, might as well save their feet slightly. Not that the 'road' is much of one. "I'm Rurohashi Ruri," she calls out over her shoulder, assuming people are following behind.
"Jounin? That'd be nice, but I heard 'genin'." Rinako's shoulders rise and fall as if it didn't really even matter. "I guess rescuing someone who's probably already mangled sand-spider food is less important than saving lives from predatory humans. Ugh…" Lifting a hand up to the back of her neck, she rolls her shoulders a few times. "This heat is going to wilt me. When are we gonna move somewhere /nice/?"
The elder of the twin kunoichi turns about at the sound of a voice, watching the male of the group approach. Looking up… and up… and /up/ at him with an ever-growing frown, before talking to her sibling out of the side of her mouth. "I, uh, thought they said they were sending a genin, not Gigantalor the Scorpion Crusher. Seriously," She eyes the younger boy up and down. "What have they been /feeding/ you!?"
With a groan, the dark-haired kunoichi leaves off of her teasing in order to follow in her sister's steps, always lamenting the need to run when the sun was out, to expend energy beneath the heating ways that could have gone towards staying cool. "Rurohashi Rinako. I'm the older one, by the way. More mature… prettier… harder working… Comes with a lot of perks."
Kichiro can't help but offer a sheepish goofy grin to the girls' disappointed looks. He leans down and follows along, running after the two. his running form is so farleaned forward its hard to see how he doesn't fall over, occasionally even using his hands and feet to gallop along with the trio. "I'm Kichiro.. Nice to meet you both. And I've not crushed any scorpions… yet.. I'll try and make sure I remember which of you is which.. Ruri seems more disappointed in me so that should be something to watch for.." His pack, by now you might be able to tell, isn't just slung over his shoulder, the bottom is clipped to his belt as well so it stays in place even at this pace.
Ruri shakes her head, though the motion might not be seen from behind. She explains verbally, "I'm not disappointed, just surprised that we're being sent on a rescue mission with less than full strength. But I'm sure you'll do fine. Just being a Genin doesn't mean you're useless or anything. I was Genin-equivalent once…" She hmms thoughtfully for a moment before shaking her head again and focusing on the task at hand. "So how much do each of you know about this Uudo-san guy? I know what was in the mission briefing, but that's about it."
As she talks, Ruri turns off the barely-there road and heads more towards the south-east, where Eedo was supposed to be approaching from. There was a camp that can be investigated after all.
"C'mon, I just /told/ you I'm the pretty one. Also, y'know, the tattoos?" As they run along, Rinako points mildly towards the drawings that can be seen rather plentifully on her sibling's skin. "That might be a better giveaway. That, and y'know, the way she hates everyone. But cheer up!" She smiles conspiratorily. "/You/ don't have to live with her."
Resisting the urge to further comment when her sibling provides opportunity to poke fun at her skills, the elder sibling jumps her mind onto the business track instead. "I've never met him, so I can't tell ya what he looks like. I've read enough of his books to know that if he's alive, we need to find him /fast/. He's a little crazy, but he's made more of a contribution to humanity than most historians could ever dream of. If we don't find him, we should at least see if we can find any research notes or belongings we can return to his family."
Rinako turns a step behind her younger sister, pacing her easily enough during their distance-eating run, though her speed wasn't quite up to par with what it should be. A little distracted, she keeps her eyes on the ground ahead of her, occasionally glancing off to either side for possible threats, thus far only seeing an ocean of endless sand. "Do we know how far he was from the village when contact was lost? How many hours he's been reported missing?"
Kichiro chuckles at the response, not seeming bothered by it. He follows easily, his long legs letting him cover ground pretty easily. "Only what was in the briefing as well, Ruri-sama. And yes rinako-sama.. you did tell me that.. but I don't think its a good idea for me to claim that as how I can tell which is which.. she might take offense." He stays silent after that, staying alert, but he has no particular skill at sensing any more than an average ninja should have.
Ruri squints across the desert, trying to ignore the jibes from her sister. She likes lots of people! Or she tolerates them at least. Which is basically the same thing, right? But yes, she does have tattoos (not biker tattoos, but like… Really neat and stylistic symbols and pictographs and things) all over her arms. And other places, but those ones aren't immediately visible.
The glare of the sun and the heat making sweat drip into her eyes doesn't help with seeing anything, but she spots >it< regardless, just because it's not normally there. "That's his camp up ahead," she calls out as she points at a collection of light-colored shapes barely distinguishable from the desert. "He was supposed to have arrived sometime last night, in the evening, but not too late. When he wasn't here this morning, his friends reported him missing immediately. So it's been more than 12 hours. Let's be careful from here on in. If there's enemies in the area I'd rather we were aware of them before they were aware of us."
Regardless of anything else said, at the pace they are setting, they arrive near the edge of the camp in less than five minutes. There's a rocky outcropping nearby that Ruri chooses to crouch behind after slowing down.
"Aw, you're a smart boy, that's no fun." Rinako let's a small, low 'tch' sound out the side of her mouth. "At least you know complimenting one woman in front of another is an indirect insult. You just might survive this mission after all."
As the camp comes into view, Ruri follows the younger girl towards the rocky outcropping, squatting behind it with her back against the harsh surface, peering around the corner. Her eyes scan the immediate area, but can't find too much out of place, save for a distinct lack of their target, and anyone else, apparently. After a moment, the older twin pulls her head back behind the rock, frowning down at the sand between her feet before looking up.
"You're the brains, Ru, what'cha think? We send the scarecrow here to the perimeter to look for tracks while you and I get to the camp to look for traps, clues, or an ambush? Gigantalor, you'd have to be ready to back us up quickly if things go south. I've," Her head peeks out minutely around the rock once more, eyeing the camp. "Probably got the best chance of taking a hit and living, so maybe I should go first."
Cutting a look to the side, Rinako's raises her eyebrows expectantly, questioningly, towards her sister.
Kichiro slows down and stays down on all fours to conceal his heighth behind the chosen outcropping. He looks around to the sides of out cropping, looking for other places that might be good spots to ambush the camp from. After all, that would be the most likely places to see attackers come from. "what, you're not just going to send the scarecrow out to see if anything attacks? Besides, I don't think tracks can last out here in the sand for twelve hours.. heck, I doubt our tracks here would last long enough for us to follow them back.
Ruri hmms as she waits for a report from her sister on what is seen. "It's definitely quiet… And empty too? If it was bandits, they probably took anything of value already… The camp was supposed to have some guards, but even ninja can be overwhelmed by large numbers of normal fighters. Hmm… No, sending in one person alone would be too risky, and asking for trouble. And tracks are hard to retain out here in the desert, you're right."
After a moment of consideration, Ruri hits the palm of her left hand with her fist producing a sort of 'pap' noise. "I know. We'll just assume the appearances of more researchers, come back to check on Uudo-san. If there's bad guys, they'll be keen to attack or trap 'victims'. If there are people still hanging around, they may react more favorably to their own people than to ninja. Sound good?"
She doesn't wait too long for a response before putting her hands together in a series of seals. Dog, Boar, Tiger! "Henge no Jutsu." Poof! Suddenly Ruri has turned into a taller and more adult-proportioned woman in khaki shorts and jacket, with a white t-shirt, boots, 'safari hat', etc. She has shortish purple hair too. "I am Doctor Delilah! Or something," she says as she tests out the voice she chose for the Henge. Deeper than her normal voice. More mature. But also with a slight accent (British if Britain existed in this theme).
'Doc Delilah' then stands up, revealing she is now about as tall as Kichiro is. Crazy giant women! Nodding, she says, "Pick an appearance and let's go. Be sure not to make yourself look too capable, physically."
"What, you're not an Academy student, you're a shinobi now." A half-reproachful glance is tossed over her shoulder at the recalcitrant male. "If there's a trap, it's most likely to be /in/ the camp, so the perimeter would be the safest place for you. But you can't expect to be coddled anymore. You're a hired professional." Dutiful duty speech delivered, the kunoichi's dark eyes look back over the mini-encampment, which already looked to be half-buried. "Besides, there's more to tracks than just footprints in the sand. Something may have been dropped, or a captive may be leaving a trail. We can't chance missing anything just because it's not /likely/ we'll find it."
"Disguise? Errrr… You might have to change into that one more often." After looking her sibling up and down, Rinako manages to look decidedly disappointed that they wouldn't be going a more gung-ho route, Rinako slips back behind the rock and flips her hands through the requisite seals. It wasn't as smooth as her sister's, but it got the job done, and once she was done, a poof of smoke has made her look… like herself.
Except about three feet tall and in different clothes. Now looking more like a nine-year-old, Rinako had a pair of horn-rimmed, oversized spectacles perched on her nose, a wide-brimmed hat to protect her from the sun, along with a shirt-and-cargo-shorts combo that was practical, but not very stylish. The ninja toolbelt at her waist was now disguised as a book satchel, binding three thick volumes together at her right hip.
Pushing up her glasses, the girl stands up as well, though she can now barely see over the rock. "Delilah's daughter, Valerie." She says by way of re-introduction. "Let's /do/ it." Her tiny face was an all-business frown.
Kichiro hmms, "so looking like myself would work?" he chuckles at his own self-depricating jibe before he nods and performs his own henge-no jutsu, taking the appearance of an older, short, slightly overweight man. About fifty, only five foot tall. not extremely fat, but what gut he has is barely restrained by his clothes, as if he hadn't been in the field lately. He walks with a little bit of a waddle and is sweating like mad. His clothes are the same, safari hat, khaki shorts revealing his bony knees. "Proffessor Fenton J. Bullworth the third" He mops his sweat, revealing his balding head. "do wait up, Doctor. these old bones can't move as fast as they used to. Alright, lets go then" he sraightens up his belt, having to fix it a few times as he walks since the old man has grown too much for his old explorers clothes despite his denial of it.
Adjusting her thin glasses, 'Delilah' winks at Rinako at the comment, before sauntering off towards the camp. She calls out loudly, "Hello! Uudo-sama? Anyone? You did not arrive at Sunagakure last night! Is everything alright? Hello???" She just keeps wandering into the camp, looking around for clues. The tents, in addition to having sand mounded up around them, are also torn in many places, some of them are burnt, but they do not appear to have been subjected to actual attempts to torch them. They just look ragged and seared. Not exactly the quality one would expect from a world-famous researcher.
There's gear scattered all over, left untouched. A foldable table in the center of the camp has papers on it, weighed down with rocks. The center of the camp may be surrounded on all sides by seemingly empty tents, and thus be a good place for an ambush, but there is also the fact that it is completely silent, except for a desert wind that has started to pick up. And it's broad daylight. Bandits would have to be pretty skilled to hide from three ninja in such conditions.
"HELLO!?" Ruri calls out one more time before approaching the table to examine what's on it.
Cupping her hands to her tiny mouth, 'Valerie' trails along morosely in Delilah's shadow, looking for all the world like a disgruntled, dying-of-thirst little flower. After a moment, she takes her hat off momentarily in order to waft it in front of her face, creating a small, makeshift breeze for her face even as the wind picks up, frowning a bit at the older gentlemen. "Try to keep up, Bullworth-sama. I wanna get back hooooooome."
Pouting a bit at the mention of going home, apparently unhappy that they could go yet, Valerie begins to wander away from her 'mother' as the 'older' woman begins to move to inspect the table. After all, what child could pass up the chance to explore an abandoned camp in the hopes of finding treasure that would be worthless to anyone who didn't have the mind of someone who wasn't yet in the double-digits of their life, yet?
The small, dark-haired girl approaches one of the tents boldly, as if she hadn't a care in the world with her parent a quick shout away, tromping across the sand right towards it's entrance, tearing aside one of the tent flaps as she crouches down to peer inside. "Hello?"
Proffessor Bullworth waddles after the tall buxom Delilah, "you see, my dear Doctor. There is no need to hire ninjas. I'm an old hand at these kind of adventures yo know. Why I remember when I led my team to the ruins of Maxis Nur. You see, the locals were all in uproar because they believed we were going to let loose some sort of curse by opening the tombs.. poppycock" The 'Professor waddles around the camp as he rambles on telling his tale, searching subtly while acting like he is completely oblivious
As 'Doc Delilah' examines the papers on the table she finds that there are photographs in grainy black and white, what appear to be research of some kind written in an illegible scrawl, and an unfolded map that shows this particular part of the desert. Certain locations have been marked with pins and a circle drawn on the map around each pin. And there is one more location, marked only with a circle, but no pin. It appears to be situated about four miles away from the camp, to the east.
Ruri hmmms. She knows a lot about a lot of things, but she's not experienced with archaeological stuff. She should get Rinako and Kichiro to come over and have a look to see if they can discern anything from the map and photographs. "Professor Bullworth, what do you make of these pictures? They appear to be photos of human remains — bones mostly. Do you suppose that Uudo-sama may have been investigating burial grounds of some sort?"
Meanwhile, as 'Valerie' goes into the tent, she finds something disturbing. There's a man lying inside. His face is gray with what appears to be dirt or dust, his eyes are clenched closed, and his mouth partially open, showing that the same substance covering his face is also inside of his mouth. He is wearing desert-appropriate researcher clothes not too unlike what the fake-researcher-ninja are disguised in, but a bit more practical. His hands fingers are clenched in half-fists, and he is curled up into a fetal position on the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing either.
As the tent flap is ripped aside, the kunoichi-in-disguise takes a moment to adjust her eyes to the sudden darkness after trying to look around in the very bright light. It takes a few moments, but eventually she figures out that that lump in the middle of the tent isn't just a bedroll, it's a person. Or a body.
True to form, the 'little girl' quits a quiver of half-terror in her voice, licking her lips nervously before she starts to crawl forward. "Hey, Mister, are… are you…?" Her tiny backside disappears into the tent as she moves towards the unconscious, or dead, man, reaching a hand out to just /barely/ touch the powder covering his face, bringing it near to her nose for a very light sniff, certainly not enough to /inhale/ the stuff. A hand is placed on his chest to check for breathing, which seems to be absent. She gives him a little shake.
"Hey, M-Mister… Wake up… Wake up…"
Professor Bullworth hmms and waddles back towards 'Delilah'. He shuffles through the pictures tha the good doctor has found. "why yes. So it seems. And the map.. it looks like the pins are places he's been.. that leaves this last one for where he's going to." He really can't identify more than that they are human bones. The professor adjusts his glasses and looks again at the picture. "It does look like jackals or somethings gotten to his dig site though." He glances over towards 'valerie's' call, his face slipping momentarily, showing more wariness than the oblivious Bullworth would know to.
Ruri hmmms at all the physical evidence before them… But evidence of WHAT is the question. Delilah looks towards Bullworth and says, "Places he has been… Then this last one is probably where he plans to go next?" She peers at the location indicated by the last circle. Just another spot in the desert. Nothing special about it that she knows of. She's never been there herself, of course, but she has also never heard of any special qualities being attributed to that area. "Jackals… Filthy scavengers!" she lets out, still trying to maintain her disguise. But she too turns towards the sound of Valerie's voice when her 'daughter' calls out in that tone, a slight shiver of anxiety going up her spine.
When Valerie brings that minute amount of substance near her nose, just that tiny sniff would give an immediate impression. It is dry like the desert. Dry like there has never been any moisture in it at all. Dry like something that would sorely like to make Valerie dry too. Even that trace amount on the disguised ninja's finger may be making her skin feel unpleasantly as though she were losing moisture to it.
When the girl starts to shake the man, the place where Valerie touched his face originally visibly cracks, and then his whole face just caves in and crumbles into chunks of gray dust. Clearly whatever that stuff is, it was deadlier when it was first applied, because Valerie's finger does not seem to be falling off or anything else similar.
Delilah looks towards Bullworth and then starts jogging towards the tent that the voice came from. "Are you alright, Valerie-dear?" she calls out cautiously, once hand reaching for her equipment belt.
Grimacing in little-girl disgust, the bespectacled Valerie wipes the dust off of her hand onto the cloth that made up the floor of her tent. It's then that she notices the tiny crack in the man's skin, which quickly begins to spider-web all over his face, snatching her hand back from his chest like touching him had burned her.
And then the male's head caves in completely, becoming little more than a pile of dust. A mere heartbeat later, Valerie is tearing out of the tent, screaming at the top of her lungs.
Barreling towards the older woman and the portly researching, the little girl wraps her arms around the woman's leg and huddles behind her, staring in wide-eyed terror at the tent. She looks up, her chin quivering as she does her best to explain. "Th-There was a dead maaaaan… S-Some k-kind of d-dust… H-he broke when I t-touched him! It w-wasn't my f-fault!"
Despite his oblivious attitude, Bullworth is very aware and watching all around to see if there is an ambush to follow this distracted period. He plays his part and rushes to the fragile female's sides. "What what?" He waddle-jogs over, slightly winded from that distance already. He leaves the mother to console the daughter and crawls into the tent to inspect.. after all it is the mans duty to check out such icky things. once in the tent, he uses a stick to comb through the dust that was the man, then searches clothing and anything else to try and find identification.
Delilah bends over to comfort Valerie, while at the same time examining the little girl carefully. "Are you alright? Did you touch the dust at all?" She starts to look Valerie over, to make sure she hasn't been contaminated or anything. Yet she also looks around out of the corners of her eyes. This would be a perfect time to pounce, if anyone was around. But there was no one, it seemed. Even when the group was seperated, and Bullworth was inside the tent, there just didn't seem to be anything happening.
Kichiro's investigation of the corpse shows that the teeth are somewhat intact in what is left of the front of the skull, since they lie amongst the dust on the ground, untouched by whatever ruined the face. The body is still flesh and blood — however dead it may be. And in the dead man's garments are papers that authorize him to participate digs in the Land of Wind, travel papers for crossing borders, and identification papers that mark him as 'Rongi Papara', a Land of Earth native, but not a ninja.
Other papers on a small wooden desk appear to be a letter to his family back home. Nothing immediately interesting about the writings, but a more detailed analysis might yield something of value. Outside, Ruri makes a decision. "It doesn't look like there's anyone else alive here, except for us. I'd say we should go looking at the last spot on the map for any survivors, but this has gone beyond a C-Rank mission. We should report back about what we found here first."
"I touched it."
It's said with typical little girl forthrightness, holding up her tiny index finger for inspection by her 'mother'. One hand stays around the taller woman's leg as she begins further wiping off her finger on Ruri's shorts, making sure to clean under her fingernail on her sister's belt when she's not looking. It probably wasn't quite so dangerous anymore, after all. Probably.
Valerie keeps her voice low as Delilah announces what they would next be doing. She just gives a happy nod of her head, looking relieved to be going home. "Yeah, okay 'Mom'. I'll get the map and the photos." Looking exceedingly reluctant, for the benefit of any eyes that may be prying, the little dark-haired girl lets go of the older woman, walking morosely towards the table, where she begins to gather up the materials there in her tiny arms. After she's depinned and rolled up the map in her arms, stacking the pictures in the cradle of her other arm, she comes wandering back, a tiny frown on her face as she pushes up her glasses with her wrist.
Bullworth collects all the papers and the mans ID's. he looks for the mans satchel and puts it all in there to carry. He then looks for a jar or other such container to take a sample of the dust sealed so he doesn't contaminate anything with it just in case. He comes out of the tent when finished, dragging the extra bag with him. "Thats something I have never seen before." is all he can say about the dessicated remains. He takes a handkerchief to mop his sewat up before asking, "well.. we're returning to town then? there are quite a few empty tents still.. theres obviously more than this man missing… are the others empty?"
Delilah/Ruri walks up to three seperate tents while Valerie/Rinako is gathering things up, and checks them carefully but quickly. They're all empty. There's more tents, but somehow she doesn't think there's any other survivors. They would have responded by now. Still… If lives can be saved… "Help me check the other tents, then. We'll make sure before we leave." She then quickly moves about, presumably with Bullworth/Kichiro doing the same, and keeps on looking until every tent has been determined to be empty. And they ARE empty. There may be additional equipment or papers, but nothing indicating what happened here. A proper investigation team will have to be sent to look over everything. What they have now should be enough to get orders on what to do next — hopefully to check out that last site.
When she's done, so is Valerie. Nodding, she says, "Good. Let's head back." Once they are out of the camp, and preparing to return to Sunagakure, only THEN does Doc Delilah change back into Ruri. It may have been a waste of time and Chakra to disguise themselves, but even so… Caution in such a situation was warranted.
Trying to carry all this stuff with tiny arms was exhausting! But Valerie perseveres, holding them in her stick-thin limbs as they begin to set out once the order is given. As soon as Ruri changes back, Rinako ends her Henge as well, popping back into her taller version, the eldest of the group once more. And what a relief that was! Having longer arms was certainly better to cart around maps, papers, and photographs with.
"Right, so did we ever find out who the corpse was? It seemed kind of achaeology-…ish. It wasn't our target, was it? I'd rather not have to report back a failure. Especially on recovering Kara-san's father. I don't think she'd take the news too well."
How come talking and running at the same time never seemed to wind ninjas the way it would anyone else?
Kichiro follows as Bullworth until the others release their henge, indicating he can as well. He hadn't been expecting survivors, but knowing how many victims might still be missing could be important. He answers Rinako, "Rongi Papara… earth country native. I'm not sure if its a good thing or bad thing that he wasn't there"