Fire Starters - Burning Low


Tsugumi, Rinoko, Suzu

Date: June 9, 2016


Moroi is tracked down at a certain bridge, where he is confronted by three members of Team 13.

"Fire Starters - Burning Low"

Land of Fire

At a bridge in the Land of Fire, the place where Uchiha Ken proposed to Uchiha Tsugumi, the former is meeting someone who looks like the latter. But that latter isn't the real Tsugumi. Instead, he's a traitor who intends to obtain all the evidence available regarding his betrayal from Ken, who has been investigating him, and then likely dispose of Tsugumi's husband. And since he's using Tsugumi's form, he might try to pin it on her in turn. By now, it might already be too late to cover up Moroi's involvement in helping enemies of the Leaf infiltrate the Village. He had too many big plans, too many cover-ups, and was too free in his utilization of Village resources in support of his objective of trying to become Hokage.

He's smart, but far too ambitious. The usage of fake ANBU was probably the last straw all on its own. With everything else…

Right now, however, that isn't the primary problem. Moroi's guilt being proven can come later. Because as Tsugumi races through the forests of the Land of Fire, as fast as she can, even if that means she's starting to leave the others behind, her thoughts are on reaching Ken before something happens to him. She can't lose him. Not after all this. Not after all these years. She's known the risks of ninja work for a long time now… Very keenly, infact. It's why she didn't want Suzu to become a kunoichi. Why she wishes Ken could have retired as well.

But now, being faced with the certainty of threat to Ken, not just the vague awareness that something tragic might happen at any time, she is desperate to stop it.

And so she runs full force, pounding down paths, leaping from branch to branch, barely aware of the team following after her. Please let her be in time…!

Though she's nowhere near as fast as Tsugumi on foot, with a Paper Clone that has been Paper Henged into a giant bird, she is actually able to keep up pretty decently. She's not exactly outwardly sweating like Tsugumi, but doing so on the inside through tension and chakra counts for something, right? There is a deep look of focus on the librarian kunoichi's face as the paper bird races through the forest toward where they're going, her face set like a stone.
Of course, one can't help but feel some emotion on this journey over. While she's determined they will make it before anything bad happens, there is the possibility that they don't or that they get overpowered, so she starts trying to think of good ways they can all survive this, hopefully including Ken.

Suzu has pretty good endurance. At least Chuunin level. But even she has her limits, and after everything they've been through… She is having a hard time breathing, let alone keeping up with Tsugumi and the now-flight-capable-apparently Rinoko. And she hasn't even gotten hit and burnt and exploded like her mom has! Still, beyond adrenaline, desperation also pushes her onwards.

"I thought Moroi… Wasn't a ninja…!" she calls out as she runs, sparing some breath to get up to date at least. "If he is one… Do we know… How strong he is? What kind… Of jutsu… He uses?" Leaping and bouncing through the trees like this is really killing Suzu's back, but her thoughts are far from her own discomfort. She needs to know what she can do against the enemy. They probably want him alive, right? Well, her mom should be able to handle that with Genjutsu… But what if it's not that simple? And what about her dad? Nobody on this team is a medic. If he's injured, what then?

As they close in on their destination, Tsugumi's thoughts about her life with Ken, from when she first met him during the Clan Wars, fought alongside him, grew closer to him as the years went on, fell in love, and eventually tried to settle down after the agreement between Madara and the First Hokage, all the way up to the present are interrupted by the sound of her daughter's voice. She glances over at Suzu, and then towards Rinoko (and her paper bird). Then she faces forwards against as she springs off another branch with so much force and Chakra output the bark shatters.

"He wasn't supposed to be a ninja. Just an advisor." The pain in her own back and shoulders is barely noticeable next to her burns and the wounds from that mercenary's kusarigama and everything else. The tiredness is still there, as her stamina is nearly the same as her daughter's, even if her actual pool of endurance is greater. But she puts it aside for now. "He at least believes he has the jutsu necessary to fake being me convincingly. Whether that means the Transformation Technique or something else, I don't know. Ken isn't as skilled with Genjutsu as I am. It's possible that a powerful-enough Genjutsu might fool his Sharingan. Beyond that we have no idea what Moroi's capabilities are. But our primary objective is to capture Moroi." She wishes she could say that the primary objective is to rescue Ken, but…

It isn't. If Moroi escapes, it won't matter if they have evidence against him.

The bridge gradually comes into view, and the sight of Tsugumi standing upon the bridge with Ken is suddenly right there as well, as the real Tsugumi coasts through the air following a leap. She doesn't even bother calling it. Warning an ally could also tip off the enemy. Instead she flashes through a series of hand seals and then breathes out a cluster of fireballs that curve around Ken in mid-air, targetting the fake Tsugumi. It doesn't seem to be Genjutsu that's being used after all.

Ken is, of course, surprised by this sudden appearance of a second Tsugumi, but it only takes him a moment to piece together that Suzu and Rinoko being present as well means something, and his wife looking beaten up really wouldn't provide any benefit if this were an impostor trying to fool him.

While he doesn't know EXACTLY what's going on, he's not about to attack the newcomers. However, he can't even move to defend himself. Because suddenly he's frozen in place, his arms at his sides, as seal marks start crawling up his body from where they've amassed at his feet. It seems that Moroi is capable of using Cursed Seals.

The fake-Tsugumi abandons her henge as the fireballs with shuriken hidden inside of them wound her… Causing Moroi to appear. The old man with his bushy moustache and eye patch moves up behind Ken and puts a kunai to the officer's throat.

"COME NO CLOSER!" Moroi yells out. His other arm is burnt and injured, so he can't use it very well, but he only needs to make one movement with the other to cut out a vital artery.

Rinoko listens silently as they move along toward their target, nodding once in a while to show she is taking in the information. At times like this, especially when she's not the one leading the mission, she is quite silent so she can take in ever bit of information possible. Since she doesn't have Sharingan like the other two, it takes more focus for her.
As they arrive, her eyes focus on Ken and the fake-Tsugumi. That really is a good henge, which is saying something coming from her. When the situation breaks down, she brings the bird to a halt, and it shatters into millions of pieces of paper and reforms as a clone beside her. She remains still for now as Moroi ordered, her eyes moving between Tsugumi and Suzu as she awaits order or a plan.

Suzu doesn't get the time to do anything, even if she could think of a way to do so. She was starting to form hand seals when she saw the fake-mom, thinking maybe she could use Genjutsu to trick Moroi, by causing him to hear reinforcements coming from behind, but the sight of weird seal work crawling across her father's face and the placement of a kunai to his throat have her freezing in place after she comes to a stop on the road. She feels an icy dread spiralling around in her belly, as her Sharingan, three-tomoe in one eye, two-tomoe in the other, try to see any sort of opening, any sort of possibility for how to get out of this with everyone okay.

She looks towards Rinoko to see if she has any ideas, any clever new jutsu she can employ. Then to her mom to see if there's some brilliant strategy that will make everything work out, any comforting words that will make everything okay again.

Then she focuses on her father, seeing his face, his surprise, and wondering if he had any inkling of who he was dealing with before they arrived. If he's already told the enemy where the evidence was. If they can't afford to let Moroi leave alive, even if they're unable to capture him.

She doesn't know what to do. And she doesn't want to be the cause of the mission failing, or her father getting hurt. So she does nothing except wait.

Tsugumi has to stop where she is, after landing, of course. She tries to look Moroi in the eye, but he's too clever for that. His uncovered eye is fixed below eye level. And not on the various prominents chests assembled either, but instead upon the feet of the three kunoichi. He is looking quite intently at the positions of their feet, infact. Is he skilled enough to know their movements simply by their feet? He was skilled enough to conceal the fact he's a shinobi all these years, so it's conceivable.

Tsugumi, instead focuses her eyes on Ken's, as Moroi starts to move backwards with the Chuunin, continuing to use the male Uchiha as a human shield and hostage. "Ken-chan. Where is the evidence of his activities?"

Ken starts to answer but the kunai presses closer to his throat, drawing blood.

"It would be in your best interests if you stopped talking and stayed where you are. Ken-san and I are going to be leaving. If you want to see him alive again, you will return to the Village and wait for further instructions." Moroi orders. Seems he intends to REALLY use Ken as a hostage, employing custody of him to manipulate Team 13. Maybe even get Tsugumi to take the fall for all this.

Tsugumi tunes him out, however, instead continuing to look Ken in the eyes, Sharingan to Sharingan. She contacts him within his mind, using Genjutsu. The two of them appear here on this bridge, as it was twenty years ago, when Suzu was not even a glimmer in their eyes. It was a fine spring day. The cherry trees were blossoming, curtaining the ground and the river alike in pink petals. It was sunny, the air was sweet and clean, and for once there were no sounds of battle.

The bridge was too small to be strategically meaningful, so it was relatively safe. But there was no telling when they might be attacked. Even so, it was the closest to safety they had, in those times before the Hidden Villages.

And now, in a recreation within Ken's mind, Tsugumi stands with him upon that bridge, in the form of her younger self, a much smaller-chested young woman close to exitting her teenage years completely, leaning against the railing, and supporting herself with her hands as she gazed back at a similarly younger and leaner Ken. "We can't allow him to get away, no matter what. You understand that?" Younger Tsugumi asks of Younger Ken.

Ken only takes a moment of lookin around at his environs to smile back at Tsugumi fondly and say, "Yeah. I understand. I left the evidence at the Naka Shrine. In the Uchiha Clan's secret meeting place." He walks over to Tsugumi and leans on his elbows on the hand rail of the bridge, inhaling the perfumed scent not of the cherry blossoms but of his wife/future-wife. "Are there any alternatives? Clones perhaps? Take him from behind? He can't kil me without losing his hostage. If he loses me, he knows what will happen to him next."

Younger Tsugumi looks up at the blue skies over head. "Even surrounding him won't necessarily make him release you. And he seems to be too familiar with the Sharingan to be taken down easily. If he becomes desperate, and thinks he has no chance of getting away, he might try to take you with him. If you have any ideas, tell me. You know as well as I do I don't want to do this."

Outside of the Genjutsu, in defiance of Moroi's directives, Tsugumi begins forming hand seals. Tiger, Ox, Monkey, Rabbit…

Moroi sees it of course and cuts Ken a little bit more. "Stop immediately!" But Ken is unresponsive to the injury, and Moroi suddenly looks to his hostage in a panic, realizing something is going on.

Back in the Genjutsu world, Younger Ken shakes his head. "The mission comes first. This Cursed Seal probably won't come off without him either. That's another level of insurance even if you restrain him. He's probably counting on you not being able to go through with it. From what I've learned of Moroi, he thinks that only an extremist like him as the well-being of the Hidden Leaf in his heart."

Ram, Boar, Ox, Horse.

Younger Tsugumi folded her arms under her chest and shook her head. "He thinks he's destroying the Hidden Leaf and betraying it to its enemies for its own well-being? Not just for personal power?"

"I'm sure there's that too. But he's deluded enough to think he'd remain in control if the Village were overrun. That they'd 'reward' him for his help by making him Hokage. You can't reason with him." Ken says as he faces Tsugumi again.

Monkey, Tiger, Dog, Tiger.

Tsugumi turns around to put one of her hands atop of Ken's and squeeze tight. "There's really no other way? None? We can't let him go for a little bit and then track him to his allies or something? Rinoko can't restrain him covertly? Suzu can't do one of her unpredictable tactics she's so good at?" She's trembling as she asks, "Isn't there ANYTHING?"

Snake, Tiger, Ox, Monkey.

Moroi is freaking out now as he backs up with the limp Uchiha in his arms, towards the other side of the bridge, the opposite shore. He curses under his breath at his misfortune after all his careful planning.

Genjutsu Ken turns to Tsugumi, and smiles at her. "There's one thing we can do." Then he gives her their final kiss.

Real-world Tsugumi is shaking as much as her Genjutsu self was, her breathing uneven, only two hand seals left to go, and and rasps out, "Both of you… Be ready to restrain Moroi no matter what."

This situation is incredibly tense, to say the least. Though she is not part of the family, Rinoko feels very close to them. The very likely possibility that Ken will die here and how much pain it will cause both Tsugumi and Suzu pains her to think about… but, as Tsugumi said, the mission comes first.

With a stern look in her eyes, the Rankoro Chuunin brings her hands into a seal and stares Moroi down fiercely from behind those thick glasses. Her best restraining jutsu is still lightning tag trap… She hopes that that will be enough to incapacitate the man… She'll do whatever it takes. There is no room for failure. The safety of Konohagakure depends on this…

"Hai, Tsugumi-sama," her voices rings out without much inflection, almost robotic in how she prepares. With a shifting of handseals, the Paper Clone beside her begins to shed leaves of paper, which instantly fold themselves into large shuriken, floating midair as Rinoko awaits the opportune time to attack.

Suzu doesn't want to understand what her mom means by that. She doesn't want to understand the implications here. She's panicking, trying to think of an alternative. Her mouth is dry as she opens it to speak, and finds there are just… No words. She wants to yell, she wants to cry, she wants to tell her mom that she believes there's no way they'd just write off her father for the sake of a mission. Right?


But she's gradually been becoming less and less of a child. And even now, as her mind fails to comprehend these very things, she at the same time fully understands. And even more, she understands that it can not have been easy for Uchiha Tsugumi to reach this decision.

Even as tears begin to spill down Suzu's face, as she looks into the vacant face of her father, seeing that he is under the influence of a Genjutsu… That he won't feel what's about to happen at all. That he might be spending his last moments with his family, within a world of illusion….

Her Sharingan completes its growth. Three tomoe in both eyes. She can see Moroi's movements seconds in advance of when they happen. She is prepared to take him down. To take him down so hard he won't get back up again.

She doesn't have the variety of jutsu that Rinoko does, or the raw power that her mom does, but she knows how to hit someone really hard in sensitive places.

She's just afraid she might not be able to stop hitting Moroi once she starts.

Tsugumi completes her hand seals. However, before she has even finished casting the jutsu, she has already cast another. Her eyes are in agony, as she gives her husband a full life with her and their daughter. Seeing Suzu all grown up, getting married, having children of her own, the two of them retiring to grow old together and be grandparents, celebrations, peace throughout the land, Ken becoming a counselor like he'd always wanted to be before war took that dream from him, and Tsugumi a teacher.

It is no longer just a simple Genjutsu, but an entire life time of experience, compressed into the span of seconds. Everything, all of it, as realistic as though it were actually being lived out, right up until its ultimate natural conclusion.

Then Tsugumi performs two hand seals.

Rabbit, Bird.

"Water Release: Great Waterfall Technique." Tsugumi intones harshly. The entire river leaves its bed, destroying the bridge as it forms into an enormous spiralling wall of water that builds and builds, drawing from both upstreamd and downstream. Tsugumi's eyes burn with more than just tears, as she strikes Moroi and Ken both, despite the attempts for the former to use the latter as a shield, with an enormously powerful blast of water akin to a tidal wave all focused on a single target.

Trees are torn from the ground in the wake of the attack, the ground is gouged out, sending dirt and mud and boulders flying like leaves in the wind before the cascading wall of river water… And Moroi is swept away only to be slammed up against a cliff face a half mile away. Ken's limp body falls to the ground at the traitor's feet. Moroi can't even draw in the breath necessary to cry out in pain.

And Tsugumi can't chase after him. Her eyes bear strange symbols, though she can not see them. And she has to close them now, because they hurt too much. "Go get him," she growls out as she falls to her knees, holding her hands to her searing eyes, her body totally drained of energy.

As she watches the intense jutsu that Tsugumi casts, Rinoko's eyes widen. It's going to be difficult for a man with a blade at his throat to defend from such a jutsu, but she knows it is absolutely necessary… and Moroi is going to get a little extra pain from her own jutsu due to being covered in water.

When the order is given, Rinoko nods to Tsugumi and shifts her handseals, sending a flurry of paper weapons at the man that begin to crackle with lightning as they attempt to attach to him and electrocute him while he is covered with water. It seems she intends to cause rather intense pain while also restraining him so he can't get away before one of them gets to him.

Suzu's mind shuts down. No emotion. No fear. No anger. She just goes dead-eyed, as much as she can with glowing red triple-commas in them, as she takes off running moments after her mother unleashes that jutsu on her dad and the enemy. She can't afford to feel anything right now, or she wouldn't be able to act. So to take make sure that the one who made this situation happen doesn't get away with it, she shuts out all thoughts of revenge, of duty, of anything other than getting to him and hurting him until he can't get away.

She leaps over the place the bridge and river bed used to be, hurtles over trees impaled into the ground like barricades, runs up others, and leaps onto boulders that she springs off of, all in an attempt to get to the enemy that Rinoko's tags have already flown to and begin their electrifying work.

By the time Suzu gets to Moroi, he should already be getting shocked into paralysis. And when Suzu reaches him, the first thing she does is lunge straight towards him, only a slight flinch at the sight of her father's body betraying she is not fully a fighting machine as much as she's like to be, and then she and two more Suzus in the form of Fire Clones, all come barreling in to strike Moroi in the belly, simultaneously with fists and feet. They probably won't stop until Moroi has been beaten unconscious, to make it easier to tie him up.

Suzu also really, really, really doesn't want to look at her dad's body right now. The damage done to it… The smile on his face even though he's dead… She can't look at him. She just can't.

So she hits the prisoner instead. Over and over and over and over.

Moroi is electrocuted, then pounded into unconsciousness, and then tied up or restrained with seals. However, it's done, they've captured him. And now the evidence she promised she had to get the cooperation of Noab is actually in her possession. Or will be, once she goes to retrieve it from the Naka Shrine. Right now, however… She joins the others, looking down at the half-crushed Ken, and the smile he had upon his death. And she looks to Rinoko, as she asks, "Can you please… Wrap him up in your papers. I'll carry him. But I don't want further damage to come to him before he can be attended to properly."

Her eyes are back to a basic black, and she seems a bit unsteady. But if she feels she's up to carrying her dead husband, maybe she should be allowed to. At least for now.

Someone else will have to carry Moroi, as they return to the Hidden Leaf, to turn over the prisoner, and report all that has happened.

And then, to mourn.

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