First Kiri Exams - Manhunt


Meruin, Kiji, Naoya, Kiyoshi

Date: Unknown (log received May 6, 2015)


Some of the Chuunin Aspirants are taken on a Hunting mission as the final portion of the Chuunin exams.

Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.

"First Kiri Exams - Manhunt"

Land of Water — West Mist Forest

Meruin leads the group of 7 Chuunin Aspirants through forested land.
The final exercise — Field trip, as Meruin had described it — in Kirigakure's chuunin exams has begun. As he had explained at the end of the last trial, a number of convict Kumogakure shinobi have found their way into the Land of Water. It was a welcome opportunity to put the Aspirants' abilities to the test. Thus, they were on an official Hunting mission lead by the Mizukage himself, their goal to track down and eradicate each of their targets.
Their travels have taken them to the northernmost edge of the Land of Water, traversing the forest by the boughs of its trees. Hozuki Rin. Kaguya Genma. Moto Kiyoshi. Okumo Naoya. Shimizu Kiji. Shimizu Erika. Tsumari Koro. These were the genin who were allowed to attend the mission and were shown the starting point for their investation.
"We're here."
The thick trees abruptly stopped, turning into the air over a short drop of twelve or thirteen onto a small cove of coarse sand and stones. Meruin's arcing path took him over the cove entirely, sending him onto the waters of the ocean on the other side. He swept a hand over the cove saying, "All of the clues you need to begin are here. Search them out."

Kiji had her usual outfit on, black tank and skirt with shorts underneath, her blood vines already coiled about her forearms. She had been ready to defend herself along the way, but of course it had not come to that. The whole thing was dangerous and she was well aware of that, but she needed to show Meruin that she was not against him. The whole scene with Sei she had been torn between him and Meruin.
Stepping forward as Meruin motioned to the cove she opened her mind, and eyes, reaching out to sense everything around her that had chakra, making note of each of the seven entrants around her as well as anything she might sense from those they hunted. Then she used her eyes, trying to spot any clues that might be 'laying' around.

With his arms to his side, the young Okumo's thumbs rest snug within his waist line, his over coat wrapping around them loosely while unbelted closed. Worn around his neck was a finger wide band of silk, at the center close to his throat was a single stone, the one he gained from the trials earlier in that day. Dark golden eyes were fix looking forward, watching around for the other aspirants but also around himself by the time they came to a halt.
Becoming still and quiet when the Mizukage spoke, Naoya dips his head lightly towards the man and replies, "Yes Mizukage.." Lifting his head doesn't cause the young Okumo to actually move though. Spiders would flow around his chest and then up to his hair and his shoulders. Many more flow from the ankles of his pants, scattering out and through out the sandy flooring but also out towards the tree where they had just came from. 'Lets see just what all can be seen.. Look for movement, not just them.. Yes, even small ones.. Hmm? Share with me, now.'

One final test stood between the Aspirants remaining and the end of the exams. Kiyoshi could not have been more relieved hearing the news. Truly. Although never expressed verbally or in the shifting of facial features, his every movement conveyed the message of complete ease. Regardless of whether or not this bother the others, the Kirryu refused to let anything sour his mood.
There is no change in the Kirryu's wardrobe for the mission except the lack of the usual trench coat. In a sense, he intended to challenge himself. And besides that, anything extra that might be needed is tucked into the giant scroll the moss-haired young man bore nearly constantly these days. Along the way the Moto kept more of an eye on the others than their actual surroundings in attempt to weed out any future problems. True, they were all competing more or less for the same rank, but this did not excuse risking the lives of comrades for the sake of a promotion needless. '… Can't believe I just though that' The smile that started to form from the thought is quickly dismissed from Meruin's announcements.
End over end, Kiyoshi flipped through the air before crashing into the sand and stone. A fool hardy move, but it beat the risk of defacing a larger area in his efforts to take thesafe route. "Hmm.. so you say." Kiyoshi dared to murmur idly under breath as he scanned the surroundings. He didn't so much search for tracks or the out of place. Instead, his focus remained steadily on working out what smart runners might avoid, and what the Kumogakure convicts might be find more homie. Like a rock face, for instance.

Rin and Genma followed the Mizukage out of the treeline, their own leaps taking them over the sands and onto the water next to him. They turned to examine the cove, giving salutes in response to his order. Tsumari Koro had chosen to never leave the treeline, his movements instead ceasing atop a branch overlooking the cove at the proclamation that they'd arrived.
He watched Shimizu Erika sail past him, landing directly in the sand alongside the Moto giant. He let out a little snort before pressing fist to his chest, back straightening as he saluted as well. "Mizukage."
And thus began everyone's searching.
Rin trecked along the water, her liquid eyes surveying her surrounding. Genma relocated, launching himself onto the stone of the small cliff that enclosed the cove, walking along it and examining the stand and stone. Koro turned his eyes not to the cove but to the forest around him, and Erika moved about the sand itself, looking closely for clues. All the while, Meruin watched.
Naoya's spiders reveal a number of small details. There was a small drop of blood on the sand by the stone wall, on the western side. Within the forest, ants swarmed over the corpse of a crushed burrowing rodent, above where the drop of blood was. In the sand, beneath relatively fresh seaweed, there were small rifts. If the boy took the time to heavily study the mark or view it with his own eyes, he may realize that they spelled the world 'Hi.' Possibly made with a finger.
Despite not necessarily on the lookout for such, Kiyoshi's sharp eyes would spot wood slivers in the sand. No nearby trees show enough damage to be the source — indeed, the type of wood doesn't match. The cliff face surrounding the cove appears to be a sheer drop off of the Land of Water, extending both east and west for an unknown distance.
Kiji's eyes showed her only an indistinct scuff on the western side of the cliff wall, delivering nothing else of remotely distinguishable importance. Her chakra senses, however, provided an entirely different and expansive view on their surroundings. She knew of each of her comrades — all of their available chakra levels were relatively even at this moment but for Erika's, hers the weakest. Above her was Rin and at the top was Genma. The lands were teeming with life. Fish swam within the water, including a huge carniverous crab which was approaching from the east. Within the forest, to the south, was a band of horses surrounding a large cat. It's chakra soon faded. Further south, perhaps a kilometer and a half away, a man moved through the forest, heading eastwards. His chakra levels indicated possible shinobi training.

Kiji frowned as she noted little of use with her eyes, though what she sensed with her mind was expansive. She noted Erika's chakra and despite the girl's irritation with her, she made a note to keep trackof the other SHimizu in the party. This wasn't about beating her into the earth for Kiji, this was about getting hte criminals. She turned and looked at those surrounding her. "I can sense a possible shinobi moving to the east… Maybe. a kilometer.. or so Away? What diid you guys find?" Her eyes were golden but not angry, little of her movements spoke of any real emotion as of just yet.

For his part, the young Okumo would stay still, not moving to make another step towards the stones or out to sea, nor back the way they had come. Parting his jaws slightly, a faint whistling sound escapes him as he exhales. The brood on the other hand begins again, searching around through teams of seven would loosely surround the areas where weak tracks were found, studying them further while others continue to look around.
'Stoppy steps.. already wounded.. A message?' Narrowing his eyes, a light snarl creeps across Naoya's lips and he shakes his head suddenly. "Toying with us.. We have a trail, scout ahead.. both ways," was said more clearly though it wasn't to anyone in particular. Shifting his gaze towards the further party where the crushed rodent was found, he would try to look up and gauge how quickly he could cross the distance himself. 'No.. likely far away.. save those for later.'

Against what may have been his better judgement, Kiyoshi immediatly approached the wood slivers, and gathered up a few for closer examination. He was no expert when it came to discerning wood types by sight alone despite the opportunities provided by his side business. However, the same cannot be said of his sense of touch and smell. If he could perhaps discern its quality, whether or not if its part of a ship or potentially… something else, then perhaps dismissing his findings might not be —
Following the sharp yet subtle twitch of his ears, Kiyoshi eyes cut to Kiji first, then Naoya soon after. After a hesitant moment Kiyoshi would toss out what he knew while maneuvering casually in the direction Kiji pointed out. He did not go too far from the others, but those sensitive enough to chakra might precieve a rapid build of the energy within the giant. "Sen-… Mizukage-sama. With your permission and.. their agreement, I'd like to take Erika-san and Genma-san with me to investigate Kiji's findings more closely." He requests calmly while pointedly avoiding any looks from the others, and only /if/ he discovered nothing more about the slivers; such as another message.

Rin, Genma, and Erika looked over to Kiji as she spoke of her findings, asking for everyone else's. Genma spoke up, hand caressing the wall. "It looks like someone climbed this wall on the western side. Someone without tree walking — There are marks and holes from their equipment. There's some wood in the stone, too."
Rin spoke up after Kiyoshi did. "I think they blew up their ship. There's wreckage in the water here. That's probably where the wood you two found came from. But if we've got someone in our sights, we should go after them, right? They're our most concrete lead right now and they're only a kilometer away." She nodded to Kiyoshi before looking to the east, where Kiji had said they were. "Someone should go."
It is here that Meruin spoke up, saying only, "It is ill advised to split up the group without a way to contact and find one another. And remember that half of your number means roughly half of your strength."
Meanwhile, Naoya's spiders continue their hunting. They find a large breakage in the grass, clumps of it torn up to reveal the moist dirt beneath. Within that breakage lies a large but simple ring of iron. This is also on the western side, beyond the crushed, ant-laden rodent.

"Either way," spoke Rin. "A huge crab is about to reach us from underwater. We should leave
the cove, at least, to avoid it. They're territorial."

Kiji blinked at Rin's comments and looked suprised that they were less against working together, at least it seemed so from Kiji's perspective. It was silly in her opinion to fight amongst themselves even at this stage in the game. But it was still possible for them to have considered it a competition so some might have been against working together.
But then Rin said that a crab was comming at them and Kiji nodded her agreement. "Let's go like Rin-san says. As much aswe're able to kill it, we dont need to." She moved over to Kiyoshi's side and tugged at his sleeve then turned and headed int he direction Rin suggested. Kiji was still busy sensing everything around them as well.

Making his way forward towards one of the uncovered within the torn ground. He didn't seem in a rush, moving slowly, though almost blindly at his current pace. 'Narrow things down.. Flanks return.. we're moving out.' At first reaching down with a hand, Naoya flinches and whips his wrist, forcing out a tethered kunai into his palm. Using the blade to carve at the earth, he would dig into the soil under the ring before lifting it quickly to not damage it but allow him to examine it. Looking it over with his eyes, he would draw it closer to his neck and shoulders.
Without much pause the brood within him flows out and extends their legs to it. Some spiders would march down his arms and repeat the same, none directly touching the ring. 'What do you smell? Share it with me.. we'll be following it.' Turning his own head away and to the side as he stands, he calls out, "They're on the move quickly. Their binds might all be gone at this point.. moving in this direction." Not once looking away, Naoya begins to move again, moving towards the second site to repeat with the second ring found, trying to collect scents of who their 'prey' were and how much their scent lingered.

Kiyoshi bowed his head, acquiescing to Meruin's suggestion. The counter argument the mind possessed felt far too weak to merit speaking of at the moment. As others talk, the Kirryu's attention absently shifts to the wood slivers. One last attempt is made to apprise the slivers before they are sealed together in one of the smaller scrolls hidden on Kiyoshi's person. With a start, the moss-haired man turns to the smaller figure frowning and conflicted.
Before a word can be uttered by Kiyoshi, his gaze cuts to Naoya after he spoke up. A diversion then? Division? The clue were far too few to make an accurate guess. And worst yet, time remained against him. "Let's just get back up the cliff. We can decide on our next course of action after that… Naoya-san! Think you can rely on that brood of yours to continue the search on their own down on this level?" He calls out to the Okumo, masking a suggestion with a question. Regardless of the answer recieved, Kiyoshi would simply nod in acceptance of the Naoya's decision before turning to run up the cliff side using tree walking. With any luck, the team would be out of direct sight before the crab arrived.
He pauses only once around the midway point to make sure all have either made the climb or to see if other means of avoiding the crab was imployed.

It was soon generally agreed that they should relocate off of the cover itself, so Rin Genma and Erika soon started their way up the cliff wall, traveling without difficulty. Meruin followed behind, soon standing at the top with the each of them.
"As an aside," he spoke. "Erika. Kiyoshi. Try not to walk on the sands you're investigating next time. It spoils the scene and, moreover, it opens you up to counter-tracking. Which is the largest reason we did not want to encounter the crab." And then he looks towards Naoya, speaking loudly enough for him to hear. "Okumo Naoya. Your industriousness is noted. But a Hunting mission is not a venue where you strike off on your own." They were a pack for a reason, afterall.

He looks between the chuunin Aspirants then, raising a brow. "So then. Decisions?"
Naoya's examination of the ring yielded no further results. It was unadorned and the only scent on the iron was that of the damp earth beneath it. It had rained out here, heavily, the past two days. Scent tracking was unlikely to be useful here.
To Kiji's senses, things remained largely unchanged. There was the plethora of wildlife — and some flora as well — who presented their chakras, the giant crab settled just under the water's surface not far off of the cove. Looking closely, one could see its eyestalks. The group of horses was still huddled around where the big cat's chakra had been extinguished. That kilometer and a half to the south, the person continued their unhurried travel eastward.

Kiji went up the stone wall along with Kiyoshi and the others, looking over and around them as they moved. She looked to Naoya and then Meruin as they interacted, suprised that Naoya would want to go off on his own, but agreeing with Meruin. This was not the best time to be alone. Glancing to Rin, Genma and Erika, Kiji noted that although Rin and Genma seemed of an accord, Erika didn't seem to like working wiith the others Well either that or she didnt like working with Kiji, it was hard to tell with that one.
Once everyone was atop the wall Kiji looked around and spoke again. "Whoever or whatver I'm tracking doesn't seem to be in a hurry… But maybe the boat thing was supposed to make us think they died…" She hesitated a second, more to think than actual fear. "But I think it's still smart to see who it is…"

Even after the rings offered up no scent, the young Okumo doesn't toss them away but places them into a thigh pouch for safe keeping. 'Return..' At the words of the Mazukage, Naoya's expression remains largely mutes but hints of agitation might be noted even as his head bows slowly. "Understood Mizukage.." Raising his arm slightly, the kunai that was tossed slowly slides down his silk coated arm until it came to a stop. The brood members that had been on an extended search moved back with little effort used in being discreet and made haste to their host.
Looking over towards the others the young Okumo would begin to track their movements and where they were moving, though he didn't leave the edge of the grasses he found himself upon. "You say you're tracking one.. one that's close? It isn't them. The scent in this area is all washes away but isn't raining right now.. of this morning when we marched into the caverns. They've had at least most of the night and all morning." Raising his thumb, he points behind himself at several different points as he reports, "Tracks here.. and rings there.. and there. Likely from binds.. They moved at least some of their number this direction at night.. quickly. Rodents would be out in the open much at noon or the day from other hunters, so likely nightfall is when they made their rush."

Kiyoshi bit back a retort, knowing full well it would not make up for his error in judgement. Alone things might've been different, but they same could not be said of a group. 'He'd still…' He gritted his teeth at the thought openly while watching the waters churn. His eyes grew narrowed as they fell upon the crabs eye stalks. More had been expected from the critter, but then, the Kirryu did not know much about their habits despite living in the Land of Water for so long. Fishing and like-minded activities have been a thing of minor annoyance for him.
Although he never turns to meet Naoya's gaze, he listens absently, and admittedly struggles to digest all that is said. The only accomplished before long is a mild headache, and the excessive need to scratch at the cranium. "Still rather not just leave the other be, but without anything better…" Kiyoshi trails off from there with a heavy sigh and bowed his head in defeat.

Erika scowled at the Mizukage's admonishment but spoke nothing more on the matter, not looking to draw attention to herself. Instead, she sent a brief glare to Kiji as though the mishap were her fault somehow. It /was/ brief, though, as she quickly turned her attention back to the conversation. "I think it's a waste of time. What kind of fugitive gets that comfortable that fast?"
"I'm not into wasting time," agreed Genma. "I just want to get to the part where we get to shed some blood. What Naoya said makes sense. I say we focus on our trail."
"We're going."
Those words were spoken by Meruin, the man brooking no question. "In matters such as this, you do not leave a lead unexplored if at all possible. Whether we would investigate was only truly a matter of when. Now or later. We're going now. The trail will always be here. The potential suspect may not." His chin lifts slightly. "Your reasonings are all valid. Any of you could be correct; This may aid us in our Hunt and this may not. But debate leads to stagnation and wasted time. Take this as an example of the necessity of leadership and some of the dangers of group thinking. On the field, such a thing is much too costly."
He turned his head and nodded to Kiji, saying, "Be advised, also, that we have yet to encounter our target and do not know their true strength or numbers." A white tide pours from him, rushing towards the girl, individual spider legs visible among the thrum. "You must take care to ration your energy better." The white spiders would inject Kiji with their chemicals, healing and restoring her. "Now then. Lead the way to our suspect."
Where she would guide, he would follow.

Kiji blinked at Erika's words, tilting her head curiously, eyes purple. That was one person she could never quite figure out… The glower directed at her was seen by Kiji but ignored for the most part. She didn't trust Erika but she didn't need to fight with her either…. But there was a building argument within the group, one that made Kiji start glancing around. Erika, Genma.. everyone seemed to be arguing abotu what to do.
When Meruin's voice boomed (well it seemed so to Kiji) the girl cringed a little before peering up at him with the same kind of odd curiosity. She looked at the others and thenback to Meruin, pondering, determined to make up her own mind on the subject even if the course was already set. But his reasonings were sound and she nodded.
Then she was suprised yet again by Meruin's attention to her wellbeing. She blinked but did not fight or move when the spiders and silk came at her, almost as if she were used to such a thing. She lowered her eyes a moment, a faint blush on her cheeks, but just that moment then she looked back up at Meruin head on and nodded. "Sorry Meruin-dono. I'll be more careful next time." She had not been angry or embarassed really, it was.. strangely nice despite the light chiding, he had been concerned it felt like… And that was enough for her. She actually smiled a little.
Then, looking up at Kiyoshi she nodded again, silently showing to her mate that she agreed with the Mizukage and looking to him for his answer. She looked over to Naoya as well, curious how he would react. But her main attention was split between Meruin and Kiyoshi, and keeping tabs on all that was about them. Just in case. She knew quite well that she could be the difference between an early warning or not.

Shifting his attention away from the trail his brood has found, the young Okumo turns his attention towards the Mizukage for a time but then towards the one he began to focus onto, the Shimizu. "Kiji-san.." Only her name is said and his arm raises out towards her but the spiders within Naoya react. A dozen and a half move forward, away from himself and towards the young woman quickly and unless she wards them off forcefully they would scale her but not go near her hair, nor towards the silken spider.. lingering around her stomach and hips, a fair distance form the other possible watchful broods.
The spider's host's expression was largely mute, his eyes also a deep golden tone. "You have the sight, we don't have a scent.. The brood.. I'll assist you. This is our hunt.. so lead at least until we gain a scent. Do not engage, that's what the other's are here for." Looking away, he moves his hand to point towards the path he pointed out before. "They have a day on us already, they are messy, leaving tracks in their haste. They'll have to stop to hunt or starve, you'll be able to see where they huddle. Come on." With a blur of speed, his position shifts, landing on a branch several meters above him effortlessly.

Though weighed down by petty emotions, Kiyoshi kept himself open to the words and changes in the group. The Moto soon came to regret that decision on account of Erika's and Genma's input. It was one thing to question their prey's motives, but another thing to be so flippant about it. Then, there is Genma's single-minded objective; a danger to the group, if not properly tempered.
He felt his teeth once more begin to grind against one another from agitation, frustration, but fortunately they are not ground to dust before Meruin decides to speak up. He offered the man a good deal more respect than the others by looking towards him as he spoke. The admomishment from Meruin elicits a wince from the Moto, though no genuine irritation. The man was right, after all. Still, what had been implied Kiyoshi —
"Mn… Go on then." He motioned with his chin to the girl, or started to at least. Then, he saw the spiders begin to converge on her and just… leaped onto the nearest tree branch. From then on, the Kirryu made a point of keep his eyes anywhere but on Kiji for the immediate future out of distrust of his own self control.

Erika and Genma soon made their own leaps into the treetops, the pair of them frowning, though the latter's frown held an element of thoughtfulness. It soon vanished with a nod.
"Haste, Shimizu," reminded Meruin of his order to guide them. "You'd said they were heading eastward and approximately a kilometer away, but you did not say which direction they're in."
To Kiji's senses, the unknown subject was now nearly two kilometers south. At some point, they'd redirected to head in a southerly direction, but they now came to a stop. While they'd stopped moving, however, the herd of horses was in motion once more and heading roughly in the target's direction. They were swift, being what they were.
The Mizukage would await Kiji's directives, before nodding and saying, "I'm taking point. As medic and sensor, you're in the center Kiji. Naoya and Erika, take left flank. Genma, take right. Kiyoshi, bring up the rear." Using chakra to alight his senses he said, simply, "Let's go," before launching off into the treetops and starting travel.

Kiji looked to Naoya as the spiders from /his/ brood came at her. Wow, spiders galore today. She didn't mind, though, understanding Naoya's motives. Meruin's spiders retreated of course and Naoya's settled about on her hips. But Kiyoshi's reaction made her blink and she peered up at him as he leapt into the tree, glancing at meruin with a questioning look, clearly she was still oblivious to the exact effect the Okumo's relations with her had on her mate. She could sense he was angry though.. or just upset. She wasn't sure. She sighed though and turned.
Meruin's words made her stretch out her mind again and she pointed as she spoke, giving them the direction of the target as well as the distance, adding, "There's a herd of horses heading for them."
Of course Meruin's directives to stay int hemiddle as medic and sensor made Kiji blink and rearrage herself in the correct position, following and keeping her mind open to what was around them as they began to move.

'Steady. Let me see.. Deeper..' With his last word, the Okumo's eyes began to take on a graying hue, almost becoming blind and in place of his eyes spiders within his hair and his shoulders became more prominent. Naoya doesn't respond verbally when his orders are given but he responds with action, pausing and shifting his weight before bounding to the side on a intercepting path. While his movements were nimble and swift, they didn't seem to expel chakra nor strain him overly. 'Yes.. if she's lacking then we'll support..' is mumbled softly though one hand slips behind himself, drawing slowly at a short and slightly curved blade sheathed behind him, just enough to make drawing it easy and fluid. 'Then inject.. infuse..' "..Now" was said with a slightly increased tone along with one hand extending out towards the Shimizu. In response the brood wastes little time in circling around their target before injecting their needle like fangs through the thin layers of her clothing, injecting her with a solution only to later flow their host's chakra into her to trigger a internal reaction.

Angry? No, not really. Upset? Yes, very much so. However, beyond keeping his distance Kiyoshi held his emotions in check. At the rate he was going however, it would not be long until he had an annuerism though…
In any case, Meruin's directions are met with little resistance from the Kirryu. He simply went along, eyes half-lidded and constantly kept on a swivel as the team moved through the trees, lieing to himself about the full purpose of his actions. To make up for it, the giant tried to devoute his full attention to the role he now played, and even went a step forward by moving in such a way as to erase his trail. He knew he would not be fully successful without greater preparation. Even so, every little thing counted as far as he was concerned, so long as said plans did not result in his trailing back to far away from the others.

Everyone swiftly fell into position and they were underway, the undertaker squad in pursuit of their targets, though whether they were following a dead end or their next step remained to be seen.
Regardless, The Mizukage kept the pace a swift one, demanding that Kiyoshi devote focus to speedy stealth. They moved through the treetops with ease, their passage taking them over a variety of wildlife from the small foxes to the large, thick-skinned ironside. At one point, a small troop of monkeys struggled to keep up with them but quickly fell behind.
"I smell blood," spoke Meruin. They'd traveled nearly a kilometer in the past couple of minutes when he'd said that. "Proceed with caution."
Indeed, it was not long before most any of them could sense the scent of a fresh kill. "Naoya," spoke Meruin. "Stay and investigate it more closely. Regroup quickly. The rest of us continue."
It was just after he'd said this that his path took him over the mangled corpse of a huge black cat. It stretched approximately 9 feet long, its midsection open and spread across the forest floor in front of it.
There was no pause. Just a pressing forward.

Kiji looked up as Meruin spoke, the scent of blood? She wasn't that kind of sensor but evens he could smell it when they got close. the scent of offal and blood and she frowned at the great cat that had been eviscerated on the forest floor What had done that? Was the Kumo nin killing animals indescriminately? Or were they following soemthing else? She shook her head and moved on, keeping pace with Meruin and the others aheaad of her. She kept track of Kiyoshi a well, noting his.. well she wasnt sure what it was but it was clear he was still upset. She sighed. now wasn't the time to be worrying about that….

Squinting slightly the young Okumo would pause while the others continue to bound forwards. 'I'm faster than their core.. We'll catch up quickly. Yes.. we'll collect a head personally.' Without their direct presence around him, the young Okumo's mood shifts, relaxing some what as he became more vocal at the same time. 'Just a kill.. Lets see just what it was by this time.. there were horses in the area Hmm..' Walking around, he would circle wide around the corpse, allowing several spiders to flow from his legs and make their way closer but also further away, searching the area rapidly at the same time. 'No.. not everything, just what is out of place.. yes, just like that.' The brood would scale not only over the body but attempt to crawl into many of the wounds, studying exactly how damaged the creature was and to get a feel of what might of killed it.

Despite his size, Kiyoshi proved to be very nimble and sure-footed, so Meruin's pace hardly hampers him. The true challenge had been the environment that at times threatened to force him to shift out of position just to maintain his efforts to distort whatever tracks are personally left behind. That, and the task all rear runners were expected to handle. The liveness of the forest kept him his eyes and ears forever busy during the journey.
"Hmm?" He emits in response to Meruin's warning. A few moments later Kiyoshi picks up Meruin's warning for himself and scowled until the rest of the big cat's scent is discerned. Like the others, the Kirryu does not hesitate to keep going, though a sharp look is given to the corpse in passing. He would not have the same pleasure as Naoaya to study more, but still…

As the group traveled, swiftly moving along, Meruin raised a hand giving the simple sign for 'pay attention.' He altered their path, taking them on a more easterly bent though still continuing southward. It was an arcing trajectory however and its purpose became clear.
It was clear, first, in a subtle sound in the air. It soon grew louder, a muffled rumbling. And eventually… the Mizukage pointed. Bounding through the trees were long, thin and definitely sure-footed horses. Most of them were black, though some were dark brown or red and they ranged throughout sizes and ages. A number of them were bloodspattered.
"Kiji," spoke Meruin, turning his head to the side as they leapt above and alongside the herd of horses. "How close are we to our target?"

Kiji saw the motion of Meruin's hand to pay attention and when he pointed she knew what he was aiming at before she saw it. The horses. A small smile touched her lips as they moved alongside the beasts. Beautiful creatures that wanted to capture her full attention, but Kiji knew better. And soon enough Meruin was asking her for the target's current location.
She was skilled enough not to have to require stopping but she let out a quiet sound then spoke. "Dead ahead. 250 or 300 feet at most.. if we don't slow down we'll overshoot him."

'Hmm.. All of them.. fresh still too?' Furling his brow lightly as he stands up, the young Okumo taps his left foot lightly twice. The brood responds quickly and returns to their host, quickly burrowing into his flesh before it becomes silken wrapped. "Hmm.. Yes, just a little. We need to move more quickly and relay the information." Closing his eyes, a sigh escapes his lips while silk begins to shift his clothing though the silk could be seen around his neck up to his ears and like that several fleeting images of Naoya leap into the air only to fade away completely, allowing his speed to close to gap between himself and the main team.

'Hmm.. All of them.. fresh still too?' Furling his brow lightly as he stands up, the young Okumo taps his left foot lightly twice. The brood responds quickly and returns to their host, quickly burrowing into his flesh before it becomes silken wrapped. "Hmm.. Yes, just a little. We need to move more quickly and relay the information." Closing his eyes, a sigh escapes his lips while silk begins to shift his clothing though the silk could be seen around his neck up to his ears and like that several fleeting images of Naoya leap into the air only to fade away completely, allowing his speed to close to gap between himself and the main team.
For a sensor Naoya would become erratic, his chakra wouldn't flare through his presence would move almost too quickly to be natural. Within a moment, the Okumo had returned from his study as ordered, the brood around the Shimizu had been used as his eyes to where they were so a direct route to the team wasn't difficult. Falling back into step, a hand would come to rest on her shoulder, gripping it lightly before softly saying "They are wounded.. and close. They scavenged medicine in a hurry.. Can you sense for a weaker target or an injured one?"

'An animal?'
The thought has hardly been given enough time to settle before a motion from Meruin derails his line of thinking. He follows accordingly without complaint, though his speed may suffer somewhat to open his senses further to his surroundings. He all but completely regreted having listened to the order. He hesitates from Naoya's sudden arrival, and longer still due to the boy's words. Still, knowing the question was gonna bother him to no end, the Kirryu just had to speak up. "Not to make a big deal out of it, but… Do horses normally have fangs?" He asks, genuinely curious. One can never truly be certain about these things in the Land of Water. Plus, it did not help that his only point of physical reference happened to have a dolphin's head and… horns.

Meruin sent a backwards glance just before Naoya reappeared with the group.
The boy reaffirmed that he was a very swift creature. But the information that he relayed… "If they're wounded and close, Kiji should have sensed them. Why hasn't she?" The question wasn't accusatory but sincere. It was an answer they had to find.
Of course, Kiyoshi's question put it a little lower on the priority list.
"No," spoke Meruin. "No, they do not."
The Mizukage looked back. "We'll be on him in a few seconds. The horses might kill him; we can't allow that. We need to stop them from doing so /without/ giving away Kiri's presence. Act.
There would only be five seconds before the man they'd been hunting would come into view ahead of them. His back was to them, hidden in a black cloak. He was crouched down over something, but turned at the sound of the oncoming horses, revealing pale skin and alarmed steel eyes.

Kiji turned her head as Naoya touched her shoulder, listening to his words before she nodded and did as asked, searching for an injured chakra signature or simply one that wasn't quite up to snuff in the area surrounding them. Meruin's words made Kiji flush but half way through the sensation she blinked as she realized meruin had a point… Then suddenly Kiyoshi had a point too. Horses wiith fangs? Hmm… Act.
Kiji leapt straight up into the trees, and moved to the side, stepping into a more dense foilage using the trees to cover her presence. if the horses had fangs, there had to be a reason right? Fangs usually meant carnoivores and they were hunting the man perhaps… She would make them a far more enticing target. They didnt have wings so she should be safe..ish.. in th trees and she would not be seen.
So she opened her veins and surrounded herself in a very tiny kind of blood rain, a mist almost, scenting the air and trying to entice the horses to veer away from the target. if she could divert the horses the others could deal with the man and she wouldnt be in serious danger as the medic. Probably.

'Without giving away out presence..' was echoed softly as the young Okumo nods his head lightly and hops forward, landing a branch ahead of the Shimizu, within his hand a trio of kunai. "If I go in close I could only get one, this way.." Whipping his arm forward, Naoya takes aim not for vital points or even to kill the creatures.. each of his blades were focused onto one thing, the rear legs of these 'horses', namely the lower tendons, wanting to hamstring the creatures from a distance. A thin silken cord was attached to each of the blades, allowing for them to be yanked back harshly and suddenly, not allowing them to be found later on.

"Oh." The most eloquent response Kiyoshi could muster in the moment. Before cheeks truly became stained pink from embarrassment, Meruin's warning refocuses the man on the task at hand.
But what could he do?
Out of every technique and ability Kiyoshi possessed, not one of them would aid him in actually taking down or distracting the fanged horses. He spied the others actions in hopes of finding some means of supporting them instead. Unfortunately but again, there is no hope there. No other options except the rash. Kiyoshi gripped his hands into tight balls at his side and… sighed in defeat.
"Patience." He murmured while manuevering into a more less noticeable position.

Charging forward, the blood mares push into the vacinity of the man they'd all been following, but not without trouble. Naoya's blades manage to to find their targets, two kunai cleanly slicing through a hamstring of two of the horses, laming them and causing them to tumble. A third was cut in the leg but not taken down by the strike. Instead, it fell over the two who'd fallen ahead of it. It was extremely fortunate to come up on the other side, able to get to its feet without any broken limbs. From the sounds of piercing whinnying, there was one or two horses who were not quite so fortunate. A number of them tripped, though soon those who followed behind began either leaping over them or stopping before them. By the end, there were four bloodmares writhing on the ground.
Those that had stopped leaned down, sniffing at them. But those at front had continued forward. They'd gotten within yards of the cloaked man before their nostrils flared, heads lifting. The intense scent of blood put them into a state of agitation, shifting between Kiji's presence and the target. It seemed they'd just decided on going after Kiji when the cloaked man bolted, revealing the partially skinned and dismembered corpse of a deer.
The target ran not to the south, in the opposite direction of the blood mares, but cut to the west, back in the direction he'd been coming from, running full tilt. His movement caught the eye of the lead mare, and it stopped in its movement to turn and follow the man, instincts bellowing for it to give chase.
A total of eight blood mares found themselves surrounding Kiji's tree, unleashing almost unnaturally guttural brays, their hunger for her blood driving them to slam their hooves against trunk, gnashing fangs. The force of their strikes was impactful; Wood splintered and shook beneath it.
Meruin had initially moved to keep himself from the target's sight, using his focus on the stampeding horses as an easy distraction. He soon found the situation changed, however, the man only in danger from one. "Well done, Kiji. Naoya. Target is fleeing, Blood Mare in pursuit. Splatter your blood on the horses Naoya took down, Kiji, and let's follow after. Keep him running, but don't reveal that he's being pursued by shinobi."
He continued through the treetops, passing over the downed horses with their gathering entourage, followed swiftly by Erika and Genma, the latter looking back at them.

Kiji squeaked when the first bloodmare slammed into her tree. But it was the only sound she made and had she been less focused she would have blushed from that alone. But her plan had been mostly effective anyway. She winced when she saw Naoya take four down in such a way. But it had to be done right? She shook her head and firmed her grip on the tree with her chakra. Meruin's orders got a nod and she focused her blood on the downed horses splattering them with it before pulling as much of her blood into her body againa s possible to keep them from following her. then she climbed higher into the trees. She would end up a little behind the others but she would remain safe and Meruin had made it plain that she was not in a combat position this time. So. Late or not she would get there properly. Once high enough she was out of range she began moving through the trees again and indeed did end up behind most of them.

Sailing over the horses, the young Okumo would kneel down and release a few spiders which stayed within the trees, setting up an over watch for the horlike creatures to watch their movements before kicking off again. It was clear Naoya would move faster if he wanted to but something was holding him back. Taking his time he maintained a pace to match the pace with others of their group but it kept him behind, between the head of the group and the belated Shimizu. Bringing the blades to hand,a was of silk is formed within his off hand which he used to wrap around the blades, wiping the blood from them one after another. Once they were cleaned, the bundle of tainted silk was balled together and slipped away into a pouch rather than cast away. 'What they were.. Later.'

While more deeply entrenched in the shadows of tangled branches the giant observed it all. His position left much to be desire as far as sight was concerned, but hearing and smell painted a clear enough picture to deepen his decent into impatient land. Fortunately, it is soon time to move again. The Kirryu too held back in terms of speed for the sake of others, but Kiji's most of all. Still, there times the giant felt compelled to rush ahead of the group and take down the Blood Mare. Some… instinct, or so he figured, though its purpose escaped him.
Perhaps he felt sorry for the cloaked man?

Meruin leapt and spun to face the others as he delivered this command, a certain vehemence in the word. The lack of recovery was unacceptable in his eyes and his voice made it clear. Immediately, Genma returned to the right flank and Erika shifted over to the left. It was expected that all would take their positions again.
But as he waited for the others to come back up into place, and kept up with Meruin, Genma spoke to the Mizukage. "What were those things back there? I've never known a horse with fangs, nor one that lives in the forest, let alone a herd."
Meruin kept his eyes on what was happening before them. "Blood Mares," he answered, watching the animal as it bounded through the trees, gaining on the fleeing man. "They come from the Road of Fear. Sometimes, its tainted fog rolls into these forests. This herd likely found their way here through it, left behind when the fog receded. They will have to be dealt with later."
And, perhaps, now. The animal was approaching their target quickly. "We want to slow the animal down, but we want it to keep chasing him. We want him to keep running." The fugitive cut a sudden turn to the south… and then another turn eastward again, hoping to gain some distance through better agility. The beast proved too nimble for such a tactic. "I suspect he's leading us back to wherever he considers safe."

Kiji heard Meruin's voice and sped herself forward faster with her blood whips, similar to how she had in the dream about the meteors. She had of course considered that this was another dream, but…. Hmm.. Real or not real? Bah! That would just confuse her! Again…. So she shook it off and like with Enbu, assumed it was real or that it counted in any case. Meruin's call to return to formation was answered swiftly, though she did not appologise. He had given her a position and a role and at the moment the role had taken precidence. So she ended up where she needed to be anyway in time to hear Meruin's explaination about the blood mares. It was something Kiji promised herself she would look up later.
When Meruin stated that they wanted to keep the horse chasing the man but a bit slower, Kiji immediately thought of her blood's drawing them off.. But they didnt want the full effect of it… She looked to Naoya.
"Naoya-san can you let some of my blood soak into your webbing and aim it at the trees ahead of or to the side of the mare? The webbing should muffle it enough to be a mild distraction…." She hesitated.. she had a second idea but wasn't sure of Genma's ability to do it had it been Yuriko ther would have been no problem… She sighed but figured two plans would be smarter than just one. "Genma-san, could you form horseshoes out of your bone? slow it's pace forcefully?"

With the Shimizu catching up, he would shift his pace, coming back to her left side again through her musing causes him to shake his head. "One problem.. I can't 'aim' my silk. It's on contact. I'd have to do that by hand." Turning his head to the side he nods towards her then towards the Blood Mare. "Use your own blood against it, bleed the ribs, the upper hine legs too, not too much but it will ware on it, slowing it down." Slipping his hand low, he lets a shuriken slip into his palm showing his point, his silk had always been attached to the kunai rather than him fetching it after the point. "Kaguya-san might be able to carry your blood in bone senbons turned needles maybe."

"Blood Mares?" Kiyoshi parroted quietly. After a moment or so of rooting around in the ye old noggin, not a thing popped up regarding the creatures from a personal standpoint. Then again, if such were about then should he not have noticed them sooner?
He shook his head quickly, dismissing another distracting thought. Afterwards, his devotion turned towards keeping up with his fellows, not that much effort was required there. "Not a good idea, Naoya-san. Not unless you attach a line to it to retrieve it afterwards. Otherwise…" He needed not say more, nor bothered to for that matter. The only thing left for the Kirryu now was to try and keep track of their course, and note any advantages that could be taken advantage of should retreat turn out to be necessary. That, as well as any signs of potential traps, unlikely though they were to be about.

"I could make horseshoes, I guess," said Genma. "I don't want to think about trying to get them on that bounty thing, though. I have a feeling it wouldn't help us stay out of sight, either. But I can do what Kiyoshi said."
Erika flashed through handseals, simply letting out a snort. When she finished, she let loose a few blood needles, sending them flying into tree trunks in front of the blood mare in an attempt to distract it. Which it did. Barely. The animal turned its head but never really slowed, instinct pulling it too heavily towards the fleeing man.
Eventually, Meruin simply blazed through handseals himself. But before he could perform a jutsu, he raised a hand in a single to halt, going no further. Which was somewhat fortunate for him.
The fleeing man soon threw something over his shoulder, which was soon followed by a sudden boom. It was an explosive tag, and it'd caught the blood mare directly in the face. The explosion released a small cloud of dirt and blood and when it dissipated, it revealed the corpse of the horse and the man gasping, leaning against a tree.
Seems the man would live. And he was shinobi trained.
Meruin saw this and turned to the others, a slow hand bringing a finger to his lips, his body shifting to move out of easy sight. He looked to Kiji, giving two signals. 'Sense. Big.'

Kiji sighed at Erika's reaction. Kiji had tried to include others int he plans she had made while the stubborn Erika had decided to do as she pleased. Oh well. Kiji knew the other Shimizu thought of her as a reject of some sort. unwanted by her 'mother' Sorako and raised away from the clan. But now was not the time for such feelings to get in the way. And int he end the girl's blood had barely done the intended job.
Kiji came to a halt the second Meruin's hand went up, ending up in a kind of half upside down position, proving once again it was good she wore shorts under that skirt, leaning toward a spider-like appearance, her eyes golden as she watched. The poor horse… Kiji couldn't linger on that though. At least it was dead or nearly there.
The handsigns from meruin got a curt nod from Kiji then she opened her mind again, searching a wide range around them. She could sense the horses behind, most of the herd by the four they had killed earlier. And the shinobi ahead that had thrown the tag.. but there was more. She blinked and motioned back to Meruin, apparently this was something he had taught her as she could motion quite well. (either that or Sei had rubbed off on her.) She motioned twos and threes then pointed in specific directions, indicating shinobi level chakra signatures in small groups at the designated areas

Seeing the horse most ignore their reactions to slow it only for it to then explode suddenly causes the young Okumo to blink quickly a few times and come to a stop when the Mizukage's hand raised. Glancing between the Mizukage and the Shimizu would leave the young Okumo slightly confused at first until her pattern continues. Extending out an arm of his own, a weight wrapped in silk was tossed out a fair distance to wrap around a branch securely. While he wouldn't move, a troop of spiders would move from within his sleeve out and across to the branch in the distance before further separating, giving their host vision where they were being directed. 'Lets just see what's going on.. what does she see, do you see it?' was softly asked as his eyes return to their almost lifeless state as he begins to focus strongly, connected to as many points of view at once.

A happenstance look in the wrong direction kept the Moto from noticing Erika's impulsive action. Upon scenting Kiji's agitation over the matter, slight though it was, Kiyoshi endeavoured to keep his focus directed more towards the forefront. It is a fortunate choice too, seeing as how it isn't long before Meruin throws up a signal. Wordlessly, Kiyoshi stopped the moment his feet came down again, and crouched down, poising himself to spring at a moments notice.
For one brief instance, Kiyoshi nearly follows through with the action as a result of hearing the explosion. He may have too if not for the others remaining, or seeming to remain stock still. Unable to fully see for himself what happened, Kiyoshi was reliant on reading the others reaction; such as the exchange between Meruin and Kiji. After a hesitant moment, Kiyoshi closed his eyes and tried to sense for himself what Kiji picked up, because surely their targets were close enough?

Down on the forest floor on the other side of the Blood Mare's body, the shinobi caught his breath enough to stand up straight and on his own. He looked down at the corpse with a disgusted look, shaking his head. "I hate this place," he spat to himself. "Nothing but fog and murder." He turned on his heel and started walking, continuing westward, grumbling to himself.
Meruin's head was canted, ear turned in his direction. When he got a small distance away, he turned and looked fully back to the others. He was quieter, now that the sound of the chasing horse wouldn't so easily drown out their voices. "I believe we've found our marks," he informed the group.
He looked to Kiji directly, "You pointed downward. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that our quarry has found a way to get underground." He looked among the each of them, saying, "He's going back to his base of operations. It seems that he was out hunting for food and is now ready to return. We'll follow behind until he guides us to his compatriots. Hang back and take care with your noise." And with that, he begins the unhurried shadowing of the westward walking shinobi.

Kiji watched the man, tilting her head silently as he muttered about hating Kirigakure or the Land of Water in general. But Meruin was the one that got her attention. His question about the targets being underground made her nod and when she spoke it was in a tone and volume to match Meruin's. "Yes. That's what it feels like." She had little reason to ask anything or speak further, but she kept her eyes and ears and mind open to the surroundings. It was smart to follow him back to the group but could this gathering of genin truly hunt those they were after? She glanced around the group. Kiyoshia nd Naoya she trusted.. Meruin as well but Genma was a bit of a spitfire.. Erika couldn't be trusted with anything… She looked back at Meruin then and waited until he began to move. She would keep formation and move as silently as she could as they tracked thier prey…

A low grumble vibrates in the young Okumo's throat as all the search results for tracks or other routes in were not found but then something washes over the teen, causing his lips to twist into a smirk. As the team began to make their way one after another towards the pathway but.. the young Okumo would pause for a time until Kiyoshi was close. 'Yes.. yes we will' was murmured before extending out an arm knock his knuckles against the man's elbow lightly. Waiting until he had the man's notice, he would speak softly, "Keep moving forward.. after we make it to the shaft to the underground, you'll pass me. I'll seal us all in.. they will not be allowed out and those that try will fall into my webbing. I need you to keep an eye out behind you.. if you sense anything odd, mumble it close to Kiji-san. My brood will relay it to me, okay?"

"Down the rabbit hole we go…" Kiyoshi dared to murmur well after Meruin began moving on. Soon enough, Kiyoshi prepped himself to follow after, but hesitated for a moment. The Kirryu had hardly expended any energy, and yet he felt both exhausted and excited. And there was the tingling sensation in his hands. Try as he might, the shinobi simply couldn't shake it.
'… Not now..'
Kiyoshi lips are sealed tight, muting the growl that nearly slipped out. As things stood it came out as a rumbling that might've attracted the others attention if simply lingering did not. Without another moment given to thought, the Kirryu immediatly took off to catch up to the others once more, and would've distracted himself with going over their persona and abilities if not for Naoya. The light tap was hardly worth notice, but heightened paranoia drew the man's gaze quickly.
Slowly, the agitation desolved in Kiyoshi's eyes, leaving behind thoughtfulness and conflict. After a lengthy moment the Kirryu finally sighed and turned his attention back towards the group. "Fine… But just don't forget to include a means for us to escape a moment's notice. While I ain't expecting it to happen, if you wind up incapicated…" Nothing more need be said. With any luck, things would proceed as they hoped.
But Kiyoshi wasn't even nearly that optimistic…

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