Date: December 26, 2015
Kenta has compiled a list of potential suspects involved in the ransacking of his office and sabotage of his laboratory work. Atsuro's and Taizen's noses are key to figuring out whether any of them are the culprit.
"Fang & Talon - The Usual Suspects"
All Around Konoha
It's almost two weeks after the incident at Kenta's office before he manages to recompile enough data from backup copies of his notes and research for the follow up investigation to truly commence. Kenta schedules to meet up with Atsuro and Taizen outside of his house at an appointed time. The young man holds a scroll in his hand while he waits gravely, befitting the mood of this particular mission. One of the people in the scrolls might be a traitor to Konoha and they might be finding out which one today. The dark gray storm clouds building up overhead and the chilly December wind blowing Kenta's cloak outwards is befitting weather for such a day.
It's been a bitter two weeks for Atsuro, and he's been eagerly waiting to discover the identity of the person in Kenta's office. He and Taizen round the corner and approach Kenta's house. "Hi," says Atsuro with a short nod, "You ready?" Even Taizen's mood is more grim today. "Hello, Kenta," he says simply. The usual tail wag does not accompany this greeting. Atsuro glances up at the cloudy sky, then down at the scroll. "How do you want to do this?"
Kenta bows deeply at Atsuro and Taizen. "Konichiwa…" He holds out the scroll to Atsuro. "Umm… you two are the expert trackers, so I'm just going to follow your leads. There was a big list of shinobi that were logged as traveling through the region with the mutated fish in the week that they appeared. Umm… well, within fifty miles anyway. I managed to narrow things down to five shinobi, because those are the only medics out of the group. We'll need your noses to figure out if any of them was the one that broke into my office and laboratory. If it's none of them, we might have to check others that were eliminated from consideration. But we're just following my guesses and it might not be a Leaf shinobi causing the trouble, so we might just waste our time with this…" Kenta shuffles his feet.
Atsuro nods. "I know the scent," he says, "And there's probably other things we could look at too, if we need to. Who might have known about your project, for example. But how do we find a way to match the scent though? Go to their offices while they're out and we'll sniff around?" He glances in the general direction of Konoha's hospital for a moment. "I don't think it'll be a waste, regardless of how it turns out," he says, "If it isn't someone in the village, then we at least know we can focus on external threats. It does bring up the question of how this person knew the hospital well enough to slip past security so well."
"A medic that works at the hospital, even part time, and respected enough to have access to important files could probably find out the needed information easily enough," Kenta says with a small frown on his face. "Not all five of the medics on this list fits that description, but there are other ways of getting information. Umm… not all of them proper methods." He points at the writing on the scroll. "Two of the medics work full time at the hospital, except when they're traveling or on missions. One is retired, but still volunteers his time there. The remaining two have their own clinics elsewhere, but remain affiliated with the hospital and have many connections to staff. I have their home and office addresses written down."
Atsuro purses his lips as he considers the list of suspects. "Let's start with the two independent ones. We can sniff around their places and if neither of them are the culprit, we can move on to the hospital and look for the others." Taizen looks up at Kenta. "What areas of the hospital does the volunteer use most? The full time mednin may have their scents in their offices, but what will a volunteer have?"
"Umm… volunteers work wherever they're ask to on the day they're at the hospital. There's a locker room where they can put their things, but it's shared by all volunteers and cleaned regularly," Kenta explains to Asturo. He checks the two independents on the list. "Which one should be check out first and should we go to their clinics or their homes? Akemi-san's clinic is further, but her house is in this neighborhood. She was apprenticed to one of Grandmother's friends a few days ago. The other one… umm…" Kenta tries to read pass a smudge on the ink. "Madoka-san lives near the Uchiha section of the village, so much further away, but his clinic is close to the marketplace and that's quick for us to get to."
Atsuro nods slowly. "We might have to talk to the man himself then," he says, "Maybe Tai and I should disguise ourselves or something. If he's the culprit, it's gonna be a pretty obvious warning sign if the three of us just walk right over to him." He folds his arms, "But we'll think about him later. For now… hm. It's going to be harder to snoop around Akemi's house without looking suspicious. But if it's around here, we can stop there and then go to Madoka's clinic in fairly short order. Do you know what her progress has been like? You'd think a mednin knowing both Shadow Clone and Chakra Scalpels would be pretty advanced, right?"
Kenta nods his head up and down. "Those jutsu are very advanced jutsu. Especially combative chakra scalpel usage. Good medics can learn it for surgical procedures. It takes much greater chakra control and focus to be able to turn it offensive." The young man's brows furrow. "I don't know too much about Akemi-san and Madoka-san, but they're both middle-aged and they have to be good to have their own clinic set up. They have plenty of clinics. Neither of them are considered combat medics though. Ummm… only the retired medic on the list is, but he's almost ninety now… I just included him in case, but I don't think a ninety year old man can keep up with you, Atsuro-senpai."
Frowning in thought, Atsuro says, "So either we're on the wrong track, or the culprit has been hiding things about themselves from the village for some time now. But they also hid the fact that they were planning to sabotage your experiments, so that's not startling. Something to keep in mind for the investigation, but it doesn't change what we have to do. Let's head for Akemi's."
"Understood, Atsuro-senpai." Kenta starts to move for the gate, but thinks better of it and stops to do something else instead. A bit of thought and a hand seal later has him in a disguise that no one would be able to piece. Poof! Kenta is now a girl with red pig tails and doe eyes wearing a ruffled pink maid's uniform. He glances down at himself. "Ummm… I'll be Kena, your maid servant accompanying you on your daily tasks," this new version of Kenta says in quiet feminine voice. "Kena" bats "her" big eyes at Atsuro.
Atsuro looks at Kenta with concerned eyes. Apparently someone convinced him to read some very strange manga. He manages a milder objection, "I dunno. That might be even more suspicious. You know I don't actually have a maid? Or any servants, for that matter. And my only assistant is you, so…" Of course, maybe they do need some kind of disguise, so as not to spook their targets. "What if I disguise myself as a new mednin or something like that? You can say you're introducing me to some of the more prominent mednin."
Kena folds her hands in front of his body and blinks at Atsuro with those large doe eyes. "Umm… I thought you and Taizen-senpai can disguise yourselves as journalists doing some research for an article. I'll follow you around doing servant-like tasks. Umm… That won't be so suspicious, would it? Researchers asks lots of questions and poke their noses in places they're not supposed to poke." The short girl looks down at the ground and scuffs a circle with the sensible shoe on her right foot.
It takes Atsuro a surprisingly long time to come up with a response. "Okay," he says finally, "We'll do that." He walks over to Taizen and makes a couple of seals. Two puffs of smoke later, Atsuro is a thinner man in a light-brown suit and fedora, and Taizen is a teenaged boy holding a camera. Just two journalists working on a story… with the help of their maid. "Okay, I'll be Tadashi, and this is Kyouji, a mute," says Atsuro, "Lead the way… Kena."
"Understood, Ats… Tadashi-sama!" Kena exclaims energetically. She flounces forward with her arms swinging and her hips swaying from side to side. Someone really might have been exposed to the wrong type of manga recently. Kena keeps this up for the entire walk, which thankfully doesn't take too long, since they only need to travel four blocks to get to Akemi's house.
Kena pauses at the gate to peek inside. "Ummm… it doesn't look like anyone's home, Tadashi-sama? What should we do?" As the short girl said, there's no sight of anything living within the three story house surrounded by its low wall. No smoke from the chimney. No people standing in the yard. Not lights on any of the windows. "Grandmother said… umm… I mean I heard that Akemi-san lives alone, but have a housekeeper clean her place twice a week. The only other person that visits often is Akemi-san's girl boyfriend."
While Taizen walks along behind Kena, Atsuro stays farther behind for a moment. Until he realizes that he's in disguise anyway. He makes a mental note to explain to Kenta what actual maids are like and hurries his walk to follow Kena more closely. He doesn't seem too troubled by the uninhabited house at this point. "Let's at least go up to the door and knock," he says, reaching to open the gate, "And we can check out the back yard too. Maybe she's out there."
"No, please let me do this for you, Tadashi-sama," Kena says when her "master" reaches for the gate. She pulls it open, revealing that it's not locked and that the hinges are very well oiled. The girl waits for everyone to go through before she flounces afterwards. The path to the front door's gravel, which makes it harder for her to do her hip swaying movements, so she grabs her skirt and tries to skip instead. "I wish I remembered to bring my basket with me. Proper maids must have proper baskets," Kena announces behind their backs.
Tadashi and Kyouji step through the gate, then Tadashi takes off at a hurried walk up to the front door. He raises his hand and knocks several times to hide that he's sniffing around the door for any scents that might match the person he encountered in Kenta's office. "I think you're doing fine without a basket," he tells Kena. "Hey, Kyouji, why don't you nose around in the back and just make sure that Akemi-san isn't doing some gardening or something out there." That, too, is just an excuse for smelling around and trying to find a matching scent.
Kena waits with her hands in her apron pockets while Tadashi and Kyouji pokes around the place. She watches everything around them with bright interest in her large eyes, but in reality is keeping a lookout for both suspicious sights and signs of people. In the end, it really doesn't look like anyone's at the house. Akemi-san is probably at her clinic, which would fit the profile of a hardworking medic. Both Tadashi and Kyouji were able to get some scents, especially when the former checks the doorknob. There's a few people in the mix, some more faded than others. The strongest scent is that of light perfume mixed with astringent herbs, disinfectant and a cleanly body aroma that doesn't match the intruder's scent.
Kyouji circles around the house and returns to the front yard while Tadashi makes a show of knocking again and sniffs around the door. "I guess she's not here," says Tadashi, "Maybe we'll come back later." As they walk for the gate, he adds in a lower voice, "Didn't recognize any scents. Might have to smell Akemi herself, but I think we can cross her off the list for now. Let's see about this Madoka person."
Kena pulls the scroll out from her apron. How she managed to fit it in there is a mystery, but maybe not so much when one remembers that her clothing is just an illusion. "Umm… towards the Marketplace," she announces before she skips into the lead and brings them back down the path to Akemi's front gate. The short girl draws some attention when she leads everyone down the streets to their destination. It's not that she's dressed too skimpily or strangely, but that she's too energetic. This tends to catch some eyes, though most people just instantly dismiss her from mind right afterwards.
Madoka's clinic turns out to be a bustling one. It's nowhere nearly as large as the Konoha hospital, but it's still three stories high and boasts amenities like surgical rooms. There are multiple nurses and junior medics running around to handle the many, many dozens of patients. The receptionist behind the stops the small group when they enter. "Names? Do you have an appointment?" she asks of Tadashi.
Tadashi keeps up pretty well with Kena this time, having gotten over the probing eyes of strangers. "Maybe we should switch disguises when we go to the hospital," he suggests, however. "This is… okay for going around to talk with people, but we'll look awfully strange around the doctor's offices and that sort of thing won't we?"
He follows Kena into the clinic. "Actually," he tells the receptionist, "We were wondering if Madoka-san would have… oh, three minutes to speak with us? We're writing an article about the importance of supporting local clinics and we're hoping to speak with those in charge of some of the more prestigious local ones."
The receptionist eyes the small group. It's obvious she thinks that the claim of "three minutes" will be a gross miscount of how long the journalists would actually try to bleed from Madoka, but she shrugs her shoulders and gets her from her seat anyway. "I'll check with Madoka-san. He's very busy right now, so you'll probably have to come back another time." The woman disappears down a hallway.
About five minutes later, a short balding man in a doctor's uniform bustles down the hallway with the receptionist behind him. The latter settles back down on her seat while the newcomer leads the small group to the side. "I'm Madoka. I heard that you're interested in writing an article about me. It's very flattering, but I have to tell you that I'm not interested. I thought I better tell you this myself, since it'd be rude otherwise," the man tells them in a no-nonsense voice.
Tadashi manages not to cheer when Madoka approaches them. "Oh, I see," he says, "Well, we thought that might be the case." He looks over to Kyouji and Kena and gives them an exaggerated shrug of resignation. "But Madoka-san…" He pauses to take in a long breath—through his nose. "I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't at least try to persuade you… You can't even give us a brief statement about the importance of local clinics that are separate from the hospital?"
Madoka opens his mouth to retort, but pauses when he actually hears Tadashi's question. "What?" Madoka turns to look at the receptionist across the room, who doesn't notice his glare. "I was told that you wanted to ask questions about my personal life. In that case, I'll be interested in participating, but you'll have to come back another time. Make an appointment with Suzuzi. That is a very important question that you ask that can't be summed up in merely three minutes and I don't have three minutes right now. You can see how busy it is here right now and I'll be traveling less than a month from now. I volunteer my medical expertise for one week out of every two months at villages too poor to have fully trained medics and can't afford to pay mission prices." He doesn't notice the deep breaths that Tadashi's taking while he speaks… breaths that confirm Madoka smells nothing like the office intruder.
"Oh, I see," says Tadashi, "We'll check our schedule and come back to arrange a time then. Thank you for seeing us, Madoka-san." Once the doctor has left, he gestures for Kyouji and Kena to follow him out of the clinic. "It wasn't him," he says, "On to the hospital, I guess. Would you remind me to ask someone from the Konoha Observer to set up an interview with him about the importance of local clinics… that are separate from the hospital?" He takes a step down the street, then pauses. "Oh, should we change our disguises before we get there?"
Kena nods his head in agreement. "That's a good idea, Tadashi-sama!" She leads the small group down the street, but ducks into a short alleyway halfway to the end. There, Kena's form goes fuzzy and then poofs back into Kenta. "Umm… now you two need to make yourselves look more like medic students, Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai. How did I do as a maid anyway? I tried to remember everything that I read about them and act like that." He smiles up at Atsuro, obviously hoping for some positive feedback.
Tadashi and Kyouji follow Kena into the alley. With a couple more handseals, Atsuro transforms himself into a boy of about fourteen with brown hair and thick-rimmed glasses. Taizen's transformation is a bit more subtle—the same Kyouji, just in mednin-appropriate clothes. And then he has to answer the awkward question. "Well, I don't know any maids myself, and there are different types of maid. But you did a good job of being one type of maid. The sort who would be employed by… younger single men with money to spare."
"Oh, good! I was worrying about getting it wrong. Please follow me," Kenta says as he heads out of the alley again. Now that he's back to how he normally looks like, he also moves and acts like Kenta again. The young man briskly leads them to the hospital, which is brimming with people on this particular day, just like Madoka's clinic was. He had to stop a few times to explain to friendly colleagues why he's there on his off day, but no one looked suspicious about the two new students. Kenta has a reputation for taking students at a drop of a hat these days.
"Both Rika-san and Ichirou-san are out today, so we won't have to worry about running into them," Kenta explains softly while he brings everyone into the office level of the hospital. There are people here, which will make it harder to sneak into two doctors' offices. On the other hand, their targets' offices aren't -too- far from Kenta's, so they'd have an easy time explaining why they're in this particular section of the office area.
"I hear there are certain cafes where the waitresses are that kind of maid," Atsuro adds, "Of course, there are some people who wouldn't employ maids like that, so you have to be careful about when you use that disguise." He and Taizen move along with Kenta. They know the way to the hospital, so they don't have to simply follow. And Kenta is much easier to walk beside when he's dressed normally. Ahem.
At the hospital, he and Taizen let Kenta do the talking. Atsuro only speaks if addressed directly, or if he needs to in order to prevent Taizen from having to speak—it's not so easy for a dog to mimic different human voices after all. "We might be able to get a scent if we just stand by the door of one of their offices. Or we can act like we're lost and peek inside, maybe."
"That's a good idea!" Kenta exclaims in a low voice. "Rika-san's office is this way." He brings them down the hall, turns to the right and then makes a left. Their target's office is at the end of this final hallway. No one's around, but the sound of talking can be heard from several of the doors, so they have to be careful not to attract too much attention. Kenta's prepared to act the part of a guide if anyone does wander around. He stops in front of Rika's office and stands there to let the other two get a sniff.
Atsuro and Taizen follow Kenta, staying a couple steps behind to keep up the illusion that they're merely being guided by him. "Hold on a moment, Kenta-sensei," says Atsuro as they come to the office. "I think there's something in my sandal." He kneels down by the door and pretends to adjust the sandal on one foot. This, of course, is an opportunity to sniff at the door.
Kenta pauses on queue. He stands there while the new "student" works on the misbehaving sandal. At this range to Rika's office door, there's a heavy medley of scents that can get extremely confusing to someone that's not an expert tracker. The doctor obviously receives a lot of people in her office, presumably patients. All the different visitors leave behind traces of themselves in a complex weave that have to be picked apart scent by scent until Atsuro can reach the strongest thread. There's that one scent that's imprinted the longest and most constant. It smells nothing like the intruder.
Atsuro continues to poke at his foot as he disentangles that one dominant scent. Finally, he's left pretty certain that Rika isn't the culprit. He looks to Taizen for confirmation, then stands up. Two more to go. "Thank you, Kenta-sensei. Sorry for taking so long. I'm ready to continue the tour."
Kenta nods his head. "Umm… onwards then. You can see how extensive our office section is. It's because Konoha's hospital houses the largest gathering of medics in one location in all the nations. This is why many people from other nations often come here to request medical aid…" he starts to explain as part of his tour guide act. He leads the two disguised Jounin back the way they came, but starts moving through more twists and turns of hallways before they reach Kenta's office. Ichirou's office is close to an intersection.
"Oh, I see," says Atsuro, his disguised voice filled with wonder. "I had no idea our mednin were so renowned." He and Taizen follow Kenta along, gazing around the office area in wonder. Finally, they come to Ichirou's office again. "Oh," says Atsuro, "I'm sorry Kenta-sensei. I think there's something in my shoe again." He lifts up his foot and hops around a little as if he's lost his balance, carrying him over to the office door. Where he kneels down and starts fiddling with the sandal again as he tries to pick up the scents there.
"Umm… maybe we should get you some new shoes later on," Kenta suggests, playing along. Once again, the disguised Atsuro is assaulted by a medley of scents upon focusing on Ichirou's door and the area immediately surrounding it. There's less threads of scent to pick apart, as if the man in question is less prone to receiving visitors in the office. This means that Atsuro's able to catalog them much more quickly in his head. Aside from the general smells that often indicate a medic-nin, a medicinal tang, there's nothing to indicate that Ichirou is the one they're after.
"I'm sorry, Kenta-sensei." Atsuro stands up and gives his foot a couple of shakes. "I think it's fixed now." So, does that mean that the retired mednin is the culprit? "I'm sorry. Please continue the tour. Um, I think you said something about how some of the mednin at the hospital volunteer here? Could you tell us more about that? Is that something we should be thinking of doing?"
Kenta nods his head up and down. "Yes, of course. But you two are supposed to be heading home now, so I'll tell you along the way. Umm… you see, volunteers…" The medic-nin starts giving the disguised Jounin an in-depth explanation while he leads them out of the office area. This gives them an excuse not to linger too long whenever one of the hospital staff tries to intercept them to give greetings or pass Kenta work that he's not supposed to take on his off day.
Eventually, Kenta has brought the two "students" out of the hospital and around the corner of a building where it's safe for them to remove the Henge disguises. "Umm… This leaves only Shou-sama, but I think that's a dead end. Like I said, he's almost ninety and Grandmother says there's no way he could be the culprit either. He mentored her for a little while before he retired. She said that he was a fearsome combat medic back in the day, but he's no longer physically capable of such activities. Umm… he's still spry enough to do a lot of traveling though, which he enjoys a lot, and he does volunteer once a day out of the week at the hospital. Do you think we should look him up or just skip him and try to come up with another candidate list?"
Atsuro and Taizen follow Kenta out of the hospital, the former frowning slightly as they leave the building. He'd figured they were going to somewhere they could test the volunteers. "He's probably not the culprit," he says, nodding, "But the cost of investigating him is, say, five minutes of our time, and the benefit of investigating him is that we've crossed another person off the list and know to try something else. Let's see if we can find him. One of us will find his scent, and then we'll move on."
"Umm… I have to check where he lives," Kenta says. He pulls out the scroll to look at the address that he wrote there. "Oh, that's a pretty classy section of Konoha. This way, Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai. It'll be quicker to cut across town. I don't know if you should stay in your disguises or not. I'll let you decide that, since you're more experienced."
Kenta starts jogging down the street. When he reaches the next street, he uses a crate against a house to jump up onto the roof top. This allows him to move from roof to roof and bypass busy streets. The roofs go from well repaired to dingy to well repaired against as they cut across neighborhoods. When they're almost to their destination, Kenta has to bring them back down onto street level, since the upcoming houses aren't close enough to jump from one to another. They're all mansions with great stone walls or expansive yards around them.
The mansion that Kenta eventually approaches is surrounded by a beautiful yard of green grass and low growing herbs. The herbs are mostly medicinal in nature, but has been grown to fully take advantage of both coloration and scent. Moving up the path to the front door is like walking through an exceptionally beautiful decorative garden, except these plants can cure or kill a person.
"Oh, I thought he'd be at the hospital right now. But I guess that was a bad assumption." Atsuro rubs his chin. "Let's keep the disguises," he decides, "If we stick to the same story, it'll never really be a bother to anyone. We'll just get his scent, make our excuses, and head back to your place to discuss the situation. But if the Jounin Commander has come to see him out of the blue, it might look strange."
He and Taizen follow Kenta to the final suspect. "Boy," says Atsuro when he gets a look at the yard, "This what your home's gonna look like when you retire?" They follow Kenta through the garden, sniffing for that scent.
Kenta blinks at the disguised Atsuro. "Umm… I'd never have that much money, even though I'm being overpaid. Shou-sama was a renowned medic back in the day, even better than Grandmother." The young man's voice is grave, but those that know him well would be able to detect a hint of awe in it. It's almost similar to what's in his tone whenever he speaks about the Jounin Commander.
Unfortunately for Atsuro and Taizen, it's actually very hard to get a set on the outside. The many herbs growing on the property gives off such a perfusion of scents that it hides the scent of anything that's not standing right there at that moment. This is the case even when they reach the front door of the huge mansion, which has trenches of flowering herbs set to grow against the wall. "Umm… should I ring the bell?" Kenta asks.
"Maybe someday though," Atsuro suggests. He pipes down as they approach the door. Need to keep up the disguise. He steps forward to try and catch the scents around the door, despite the garden. "Yeah," he says, "Just tell him that it'll take only a minute, and that you wanted to introduce two possible students to one of the more prominent mednin. Does that sound good?"
Kenta nods his head gravely. He sucks in a deep breath and pulls the cord next to the door. A muffled jingling sound can be heard from inside. The small group waits for several long minutes after that. Just when it seems like no one might be home, there's a clicking from the door that signifies the opening of locks. A moment later, the door opens inwards to reveal a short skinny old man with wild white hair in a bathroom. His liver spotted face crinkles into a broad smile when he sees who the visitor is.
"If it isn't little Kenta! Please come in, come in!" the old man exclaims before Kenta can even get a word out. For someone close to ninety, Shou really -is- very spry. His movements backwards to give the three passage into the house is smooth and unhindered by the creakiness of age. "I heard about what happened. I know it's supposed to be hush hush…" The old man eyes the two younger "students" that Kenta has with him, which is probably why he's not giving too much details with his comments. "…but I heard about when I volunteered this past Tuesday. It's a shame. A big shame."
Staying silent for now, Atsuro and Taizen wait for Kenta to enter into the house, then follow him in. Once inside, they show some of what Kenta has taught them, and both take a deep bow. With their faces concealed, they take the opportunity to sniff quickly before they straighten up again.
"Oh… umm… thank you, Shou-sama," Kenta stammers when he's unexpectedly invited into the mansion. He bows deeply before he leads the other two inside as well. "Umm… uhh… you can talk about the incident freely. These two here are my new students and I trust them. This is Tadashi…" Kenta gestures at Asturo. "And this is Kyouji. He's mute, but very wise for his young age." This is said while Kenta introduces the disguised Taizen.
Kenta scuffs his foot on the polished marble floor, which he probably shouldn't be doing, while Shou closes the door. "Umm… It was a terrible thing. We're still trying to figure out who could have done something like that, but it's going to be very hard. There's almost no evidence left behind. But really, I came here to introduce my students to you, since I think they should know all the prominent medics in Konoha. Umm… Both you and the workshops that you built into your home are famous."
While Kenta's occupying Shou's attention, the Inuzuka has a good chance to get additional sniffing in after all the bowing. Shou doesn't smell anything like the intruder did. The old man carries that distinct twang of someone full of age and has worked with herbs for so long that they're ingrained into his very pores. It looks like the last person on the list is also a dud. But then, they detect the faintest faded thread of a familiar and hated scent leading deeper into the mansion.
Atsuro gives a shy smile when Kenta introduces him. "Pleased to meet you, sir." He opens his mouth again, but freezes up as that slight scent reaches him. "Um, Kenta-sensei. I don't think you mentioned the workshop before now." He suddenly glances downward. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to speak out of turn. I just… when you mentioned that, it took me by surprise."
"Yes, terrible. I hope you found the culprit. I don't know all the details, but I know that the work that was lost was very important to you. Something to do with catching a criminal that's misusing scientific knowledge." Old man Shou shakes his head sadly. "It happens less often these days now that we have the Great Villages regulating things, but there were all types of criminals like that back in the days when I was young. You can count on me to help you if I can, little Kenta! There's no need to flatter me into it." Despite the gravity of the conversation, Shou's now smiling so broadly that they can see the gaps where his missing molars used to sit.
Kenta looks back over his shoulder. Too bad they don't have a telepathic connect set up. "Umm… Oh, I'll be glad to take your help if I can think of anything. But I don't want to take up too much of your time. I'm just wondering if you'd mind giving a quick tour of your workshops. It'll be a real treat for my students here."
Old man Shou beams even harder at this. "Of course! Of course!" He rubs his wrinkled hands together. "I can't let any of you go inside, since I have delicate experiments going on, but you can look in from the doorway. That should be safe enough. If my current experiments work out, the new medicines that I'm designing could change the world! Come this way!"
"Oh!" Atsuro smiles widely, "Yes please, Shou-sama. You're so generous. Even just a glimpse would be such an honour." They follow Shou farther in, taking note of the scents in the house as they go. As they reach the doorway, the two of them stop at the threshold and stand on their tiptoes, looking in and all over the room. "I think this is all beyond our understanding right now," Atsuro says, "But thank you for this fascinating look at your work, Shou-sama." He bows again to try another detailed sniff of the air.
Unfortunately, the thread of scent that Atsuro wants to follow leads towards the workshops, but not -to- them. The workshops themselves smell so heavily of herbs that he wouldn't have been able to make out that faint scent if he had to pick it up again inside either, assuming he can figure out a way to enter. What Atsuro can tell is that the scent he's interested in leads down the hallway towards another section of the mansion.
"You have such polite students, little Kenta," Old Man Shou is saying. He combs his spindly fingers through his wild white hair in a show of pleasure. The little visit is proving to be of great enjoyment for him. The old medic turns his crinkled smile directly on the disguised Atsuro. "I can tell that you'll reach great heights, young Tadashi. Not like my grandson." The old man flashes a quick glance in the direction that Atsuro was just looking at.
"Twenty-eight years old and he hasn't made a name for himself! Why, he should be a Jounin by now," Old Man Shou continues. "Instead, he decided not to join the shinobi forces and thought that wandering purposelessly everywhere is more fun. I love traveling, but that doesn't mean a young man can throw away everything else to do it! He had an innate aptitude for medical ninjutsu too. Picked up all the lessons I gave him easier than a bird can fly! I keep telling him that the few times a years that I see him, but he never listens. It's a good thing that his sister is much more biddable. She's a good girl."
Atsuro gives another shy smile as Shou compliments his manners. He wasn't doing anything more than mimicing Kenta's behaviour toward him. He stays quiet and listens as the old man starts talking about his grandchildren. "Oh," says Atsuro, "Thank you. Um, I hope your grandson gets better." He bows again and Taizen quickly follows suit. "Thank you so much for speaking with us, Shou-sama," says Atsuro.
"So polite," Old Man Shou says again while beaming. "I don't think my rascal of a grandson will start to suddenly listen to me, but thank you, young Tadashi. I'll be sure to tell him what fine youngsters Konoha is bring up these days the next time he comes to the village and hope that it inspires him to be more like you three." The aged medic starts leading the small group towards the front door again. "All of you are welcome to come back and visit me at any time. Tell your Grandmother that too, little Kenta!"
It seems as if Atsuro's got all the information he's going to get for now—without doing some really obvious prying, at least. He stays quiet, only smiling shyly and nodding as Shou continues to talk and they make their way towards the front door again. When it appears they're saying their goodbyes, he just bows once more. Taizen does the same, naturally.
After all the respectful bowing is down, Kenta departs with the disguised Inuzuka. He waits until they're off Shou's property before he questions "Tadashi". The medic-nin glances over at the apparently younger shinobi. "Umm… did you detect something in there? I didn't plan to have Shou-sama show us the workshops at all. Is Shou-sama the one that we're looking for after all? But he's so old now. I don't think he could have kept up with you. I guess that appearances can be deceiving…" Kenta sounds extremely unsettled by this train of thought.
"Let's go back to your house," Atsuro says in a low voice. "It wasn't him, but I did smell the scent there. Someone else in that house is the culprit. He looked in the direction the scent was coming from when he mentioned his grandson." He pauses, "Of course, without confirmation, it might be the granddaughter or someone he didn't mention. But it must be someone in that household. We'll have to investigate further… and maybe make arrangements to keep Shou safe."