Date: November 18, 2016
Part of Team 13B is called upon to investigate attacks along the border of the Land of Fire. They wind up discovering a much bigger problem than they were originally informed of.
"Firewatch - Pt. 1"
Land of Fire
Nonon is a Chuunin, and thus technically qualified to lead missions herself. With the rest of the team busy with other things, Nonon has been instructed to do exactly that. The mission this time is a bit of a biggy though. A job from the Capitol. Meaning someone connected to the Fire Daimyou or his court is the customer. The job is to investigate a series of attacks along the border of the Land of Fire with the Land of Rice Paddies, to discern the identities of the attackers and possible motives. They were are all small villages without any strategic value in particular, making the motivation seemingly one of simple aggression and antagonism.
But without more to go off of, any conclusion is guess work. The most recent site is the one that part of Team 13B is headed towards now. The smell of smoke still hangs in the air, and the charred wreckage ahead of them, down in a small valley in the surrounding hills, shows that there is precious little left to be considered a village.
The piles of burnt bodies indicates there are also few survivors left to rebuild. Nonon has seen some gruesome sights during war, but that doesn't make this one any less unpleasant. She presses her lips together in a tight line as she overlooks the destruction, trying to find any sign of someone who can answer questions, and any other evidence in the area.
With the rest of the team busy, one might wonder just who is going to show up to follow Nonon's lead on this mission. What might be a little surprising is to see Rinoko herself, Nonon's team leader, show up. The role of Head Librarian is a busy one, but it seems she made it a point to untangle herself from whatever business she had today to be a part of this mission. She should observe Nonon's leadership skills, after all, and it should be interesting as well.
As they arrive at the pile of bodies, she looks it over with a slight frown. There are some thoughts in her mind about what could be going on, but she is following the Namikaze girl's lead here, so it's up to her to make the call. Shinobi life is best learned by experience.
Not to be completely lazy, the Librarian Chuunin reaches into her coat and withdraws a seal tag that begins to glow as she uses it to try and detect if there might be any enemies or other living people still in the area.
Since they'd already spotted there were some living people in the area, Saori leaves that to Nonon and Rinoko and focuses her efforts on searchign for any survivors amongst all the bodies. The smell is awful, and she has never seen such violence and carnage before. But she maintains her composure. After hesitating for several seconds, she starts examining each body, using Chakra pulses to analyze them for signs of life. It would be better if she could search the entire area, but her efforts to learn that jutsu aren't complete yet. Maybe, however, if she pushes her Chakra senses out in tandem with her Diagnostic Jutsu, she can perform an imperfect version.
She puts her hands together, as though praying, and closes her eyes. She allows Chakra to build between her hands and then expand outwards in a sphere as she walks around slowly, trying to encompass as many corpses as possible. She needs to check on the visible survivors as well, but she can't help hoping for a miraculous discovery of one person among all the dead, desperately clinging to life, whom she can then save.
Even if, at this point, it seems unlikely.
Nonon begins making her way down through the burnt-out remains of the village, towards the surviving villagers who are gathered around. Shell-shocked, mourning their dead, nursing their injuries, whatever their condition they are not about to go anywhere right now. Nonon looks back to Rinoko, and then to Saori who has already begun her EMS work. Very dedicated to saving lives, that one.
"I'm Namikaze Nonon from the Hidden Leaf. This is our team leader, Rankoro Rinoko. Hatake Saori is over there searching for survivors. Are there any injured she can attend to?"
While stopping further attacks is definitely important, Nonon isn't about to leave just yet without making due efforts to save those who have already suffered so much. "Rinoko-chan is also a medic, and might be able to help." For both Saori and Rinoko, it doesn't appear any suspicious movement or any miraculous rescues are in their immediate future. There are others in the area, but they are laid out on tattered blankets or bare patches of dirt, in plain view.
One of the villagers, sex difficult to identify beneath all the soot and dust until he speaks, says, "All we were able to save are over there. We will gratefully accept all the help you can offer."
Rinoko would glance briefly to Saori as she moves over to the pile, perhaps curious if she would actually find anyone living amongst the ashes. She then turns her attention to the gathering villages and makes her way with her over to them. The Librarian nods as she is introduced and cuts a glance at Nonon for a moment before she looks back to the villagers.
"We will do our best to make this tragic time easier for you and to find out why this is happening," she says simply and eloquently with a light bow of her head. Looking around then, she ponders a bit then decides it best to start with those who appear to be the most injured and by who is closest to be the most efficient.
After that moment of thought, Rinoko makes her way over to one of the villagers and kneels beside them. She places a hand on their shoulder to get a read of their condition before reaching into her coat for another seal tag. This one she places on her patient then brings her hands into a seal to activate it. The tag glows with chakra and begins to infuse it into the villager to begin healing their wounds.
To say Saori is disappointed would be an understatement. So much needless death and suffering, and she can do nothing for most of those here. But still, Nonon is correct. She should work to attend to the patients already laid out. Perhaps, there, she can do some good with what limited skill she has. First thing for those suffering from smoke inhalation is oxygen. She isn't carrying around oxygen tanks, so the best she can do is try to send enough Chakra into the victims to clean out and repair their lungs.
Some Lightning Chakra can help stimulate the energy levels of the patients as well, envigorating them and allowing them to handle more of the healing process on their own. She briefly acknowledges the survivors when she is introduced, but otherwise is in full doctor mode. Between her and Rinoko, they should be able to stabilize most of the patients in short order.
As Rinoko and Saori attend to the injured, Nonon continues going about gathering information on what happened. It appears that the village was attacked by strangers in hoods and robes. They wore masks like dragons on their faces, and breathed flames. They also wielded lightning with one hand and wind with the other. All of them. Meaning these are ninja who have developed three elemental chakra natures to the point of combat usefulness, and they all wield the same natures. Both worrying and unusual, to say the least.
They issued no demands, they yelled no battle cries, they just set upon the village during the night and began killing people and destroying everything in silence. Then they left, paying no further attention to the handful who remained. They seemed to be heading north-west along the border.
After the team does what they can for the injured, they set out to track down the raiders. Nonon is deeply concerned about this situation. The identities of the enemies they are chasing down, their capabilities, and what their intentions might be, are all problems to consider, but the fact that this is happening at all without anyone stepping in and then a partial sensor unit not fully briefed on the nature of the threat is sent out…
This situation stinks. What is going on?
As they run along the border, along river backs, through forests, along the edges of fields, towards the country to the west of the Land of Ride Paddies, the Land of Steel… Not a good place for ninja to be causing problems, given the pact of neutrality with the samurai there. They need to stop whoever is involved before the samurai decide to step in.
"I'm counting on you two to detect any signs of the enemy. You can sense Chakra by now, right, Saori-chan? Rinoko-chan, you've invested in some higher tier detection seals, right?" Nonon has been working on something, but she hasn't tested it yet.
Three elements… attacking without warning… destroying everything and killing people… It seems sort of like the Storm Brigade's M.O., except trading water for fire. Perhaps a group that's seeking to do the same another way, or it could be something else entirely. Still, a group like that can be really lethal. Despite having mastered five elements herself, the Rankoro woman still has concerns with dealing with this group.
As they run along, Rinoko glances between the two and grimaces slightly as she realizes something. "… We really should've brought one of the others along for this. We three are some of the more jutsu-generalized of our team and don't really focus on sensing as heavily as the others. If we don't find them quickly enough, we may need to get a message back to the village for one of them to come assist us."
The news is not good. The white-haired girl has less experience than the other two, and doesn't fully grasp what this could mean, either militarily or politically. But she has an idea. "The Land of Steel has a non-aggression and non-intervention policy with the shinobi nations, does it not?" she asks as she runs. As usual, she has to work harder to keep up thanks to her shorter legs. So between huffing breaths, she says, "If the village attacks start impacting the Land of Steel, the samurai might view it as probable cause to act."
At the inquiry about her abilities, she shakes her head briefly and answers, "I am still working on sensing vital signs at a distance. I have not adequately learned how to sense Chakra precisely to be useful here. My apologies." She's been working more on becoming a useful medic for the team, rather than a useful sensor.
Nonon narrows her eyebrows a bit. "I take it from your lack of answer that your detection seals haven't been improved much either, huh, Rinoko-chan? And Saori too… You're right that having others with us would be for the best, but we don't have that option right now." She keeps an eye out for tracks or anything that could help in this situation, but there's little they can do with their skill-sets right now. "It can't be helped. I'll just have to try it." She comes to a stop. After hours of running, they're nearing the next village.
Nonon begins forming hand seals. "It's like Saori said… But worse. If these people are trying to stir up conflict, one of the best ways to do it would be to draw the shinobi nations into a war with the Land of Steel. With three Elemental Chakra Natures, they can even implicate ninja of at least three of the five great nations. If they have different combinations amongst their number, then they can implicate all five. With the right disguises they could even impersonate us."
Nonon stops forming hand seals and focuses her Chakra. She closes her eyes, and remains there for about a minute despite the rush they're in. Eventually, her eyes snap open and she silently intones, 'Swift Release: Accelerated Processing!' This is her incomplete sensor jutsu, which speeds up her brain's ability to process information and respond to it. She can examine all the evidence, all the tracks and signs, spend minutes or hours going over what she knows and what she finds out, while only seconds pass in the real world.
…Or that's the idea. Because it's an incomplete jutsu, she doesn't know if it will work properly, and it has certain flaws, hidden and apparent.
One of them hits her almost immediately, but she tries to hide it, instead just reaching a hand out to Rinoko and Saori. "Take my hands. We're going to move a bit faster now."
"Hai. I've been stretched thin and haven't worked on that particular thing yet," Rinoko answers with a slight frown. Perhaps she should focus more on her jutsu studies, but what she's got has worked for her so far. They just might have some difficulty on this particular journey, but it will at least be a solid learning experience for them.
As Nonon attempts that jutsu, Rinoko watches her curiously and tilts her head a bit. When she reaches for her hand, the Rankoro woman lifts an eyebrow slightly and wonders if she and Saori's arms are about to get jerked out of socket at hyper speed. Still, it's best to trust Nonon's judgement at this point since she IS the leader for this mission. If this doesn't work out great, they can always just let Rinoko fly them where they're going next time.
"Hai," she responds simply to the Namikaze girl and reaches forward to grasp her hand, taking a tight grip. She winces just slightly in nervousness and anticipation, as she does know something of just how fast Nonon can move, though she may have improved since the last time she saw.
Saori doesn't feel as though Nonon in condemning her or Rinoko for not being perfectly suited… After all, Saori knows Nonon has spent the entire time they've known each other criticizing herself for being the only non-sensor in the sensor unit. Nonon probably knows better than anyone what it feels like to be inadequate to the task.
But the fact remains that, yes, they aren't the best suited to this task, unfortunately. They may be outnumbered and out-skilled. But they have to do something. And the picture that Nonon paints of the repercussions of this raiders is pretty grim. Though Saori has to wonder, if they have the planning ability to attempt such a thing, why they are being so flashy right now, and leaving so much evidence. Witnesses, as well. They seemed to just abandon the idea of killing everyone who could provide testimony. Like they stopped caring.
Or like they wanted someone to remain behind to talk about them. "This feels much bigger than what we were informed of when we set out on this mission, Nonon-senpai, Rinoko-sensei. Bigger than what we can see right now."
That said, she takes Nonon's hand and holds on tight.
Once Nonon is holding the hands of the other kunoichi, she extends her Chakra to surround them through Change in Chakra Shape, engulfing them in a field of Chakra. This is even more of an incomplete jutsu than Nonon's information processing jutsu. She is worried about side-effects for the others more than for her. So she devotes more Chakra to engulfing and protecting them before she switches it over to the Swift Chakra Nature.
"Swift Release Mode: Double Tandem!" The Swift Chakra Nature protects its user from the effects of the speed it grants them. But since Rinoko and Saori aren't using it, they have to be shrouded in a lot more of the Chakra to keep the air friction from burning off their skin, or other gruesome results.
So when Nonon moves, she moves knowing there is a very definite time limit on how long she can keep this up before she becomes useless, in addition to having to beat out the raiders. From her brief usage of Accelerated Processing she has analyzed the most likely course they would take. "You're probably right, Saori-chan. And don't worry about it Rinoko-chan. I'm sure we'll all do our best."
Then she crouches slightly, and pushes it off the ground.
The ground catches fire, leaving trails of flame in her wake as she pulls Rinoko and Saori along behind her. This is not a streamlined figure she is cutting as she runs. The distribution of pressure is resulting in far greater stress on her than what she was expecting. But the world passes by like they've been strapped to a lightning bolt, greens and browns and blues and other colors blending together into a continuous blur, until they arrive on the outskirts of the next village.
Nonon immediately collapses to her knees upon letting go of Rinoko and Saori. She is sweating heavily, gasping for breath… And the sun has moved noticeably across the sky from when they set out. Nonon notices after a few seconds, and doesn't understand. How has that much time passed? It feels like it was seconds. Still… They got here faster than if they'd just run at their normal speeds. This jutsu though… It clearly has pitfalls that Nonon had no idea about. It's regretful she's going to have to find them out now, in a situation like this.
"It looks like… From the lack of smoke… And screaming… We got here…. First." she gets out between breaths. She tries to get to her feet but her legs are like rubber.
Rinoko glances to Saori briefly as she speaks, nodding to her. The youngest of the team always seems to have wisdom past her years. The librarian wishes that she could protect the girl from seeing such ugliness so young, but such is the life of a shinobi… And then they are off.
Seeing the world pass by at such speeds is quite surreal, even for someone who can fly. Rinoko's eyes widen as she observes it, quite curious, though she's sure this has to be taking a toll on Nonon's own chakra and physical energy. Still, it's pretty amazing.
As they finally come to a stop, she looks down at Nonon as she collapses and places a hand on her back to give her a pat. She nods to her words then reaches into her coat to withdraw another Detection Seal. It glows with chakra to show it's activated as she searches for signs of movement in the area that might be out of the ordinary or would indicate that someone is preparing an offensive strike against the village.
"… How shall we do this, Nonon-san?" she asks as she offers a glance her way. "Should we alert the villagers here of the threat or just setup our defense and try to avoid a panic that the enemy could take advantage of?"
Saori's white hair is in a bit of disarray thanks to the turbulent ride, though the Chakra extended over her, like a cocoon of pure speed, kept her from being hurt. When they come to a stop, she also follows Nonon's gaze towards the sky. It felt like seconds passed, but gauging by the movement of the sun, it has been more like an hour. Maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. She also puts a hand on Nonon's back, just like Rinoko, and but in order to start using her Lightning Chakra to stimulate the body's recovery and rejuvenate the Namikaze ninja's stamina.
"Can you tell if there was any physical damage from the exertion, Nonon-san?" Saori asks. Might as well take of healing at the same time she takes care of stamina recovery, after all. Though if Nonon is okay on that front, then all the better.
She leaves stategic planning to those more capable. Though one thing that comes to mind as electrical pulses flow from Saori's hands to Nonon's muscles, is… "…Would evacuating the villagers be a reasonable precaution?"
Nonon sighs as she feels some of her energy returning. The mental fatigue is still greater than she was expecting. Living out hours of time in seconds is exhausting for the mind. Doing the reverse is exhausting for the body. Doing both is making her want to pass out right here on the grass. But she has to think first of the villagers. "Rinoko-chan, can you see about setting up a detection seal net around the village as far as you can with the seals you have available? Overlapping and irregular patterns if possible, so that they're unpredictable. Then as many seal traps as you can. Pits, explosives, electrical stun traps… A defensive battle would be to our benefit here. Reducing their numbers and their fighting capability will improve our odds if and when they make it through. Assuming they're all of comparable skill levels, how they deal with the traps should tell us what kind of battle we're in for and whether it would be better to withdraw or not."
Nonon pulls herself out of the mire of fatigue as more and more of her stamina is restored. "Evacuating the villagers would also be a good idea. Creating underground shelters would be best because it wouldn't leave a sizable population exposed in the process of escaping, but I'm not sure if any of us are capable of that. Perhaps paper domes camouflaged with Henge no Jutsu to look like part of the surrounding area. This will put a rather heavy burden on your Chakra most likely, Rinoko-chan, but if Saori keeps replenishing our stamina, we can mold more of it. One other thing…"
Nonon looks Rinoko in the eye. "Please send a paper bird to the Village and ask them to send reinforcements. I don't know how quickly they'll be able to get here, but you were right about us not being the best-suited to this. So there's no reason why we should try to handle it all by ourselves. If the worst comes to pass, I'd rather have back-up on the way instead of waiting until we need it and then asking."
Rinoko listens carefully to Nonon's instructions, taking in each detail and pondering how best to put them into place. Luckily, with her ability to manipulate paper, she can just send it into position as she pleases with chakra impulses and not really have to do any leg work in the process. Hopefully that will help in keeping their cover.
"I can do most of that, but I'm not certain my earth jutsu is quite advanced enough to create underground tunnels without other shinobi noticing," she says then nods to her next request. Reaching into her coat, she withdraws a piece of paper and a pen, jotting a quick note to request reinforcements. Once that's done, she brings her hands into a seal, causing sheets of paper to begin to fly from her body and move along the outskirts of the village. The one she was writing on, however, turns into a bird and flies back toward Konoha to hopefully get word to the rest of the team before they are in any serious trouble.
To be continued…