Date: January 24, 2011
The supplies for Serin's operation are delivered.
"Flashback - Roundabout Travel Plans"
Gaza Plains - Land of Grass
Time has passed since the last meeting and hopefully the 'supplier' has been able to gather the items on the list, medically. Taji has carefully prepared his disguise to be the same 'messanger' roll and has prepared a few special medical scrolls, nothing that could be used offensively but some secrets of healing that he believes are mostly unknown. He leaves the rest of the 'payment' to Serin's plans, hopeful that this will be enough for the required items. The list was longer than just what was needed for one procedure, enough to stock a small medical lab or triage center at least, including surgical items and drugs. Still, hopefully this exchange will go smoothly. Taji waits nervously for Serin first. After the recent mess with crystals in the warehouse district, some place just outside of the flower village has been chosen for this meet.
Serin is already present and has been for a bit. He was just checking the area for observers, workers, delivery wagons, and so forth. This is >supposed< to be where the supplies are delivered after all. No sign of any of that so far… Approaching Taji in his disguise as a courier-nin that is completely normal and average-looking to the point of being nearly unrememberable, Serin finally has to admit he does not detect any sign they will be meeting anyone here. "I detect no sign of anyone. There is still time until the meeting, but the utter absence of anyone in this field indicates there has been no attempt to scout the place out in advance, and I see no wagons carrying supplies, or anything similar. It is possible that either we have been stood up or we are going to be ambushed." He has a wakizashi at his side, partially concealed by cloak and hood, but otherwise no sign of weapons beyond ninja normal.
"Should we withdraw and see who shows up, or just abandon this entirely? There is still the possibility that she is just late."
Serin is correct. There is no sign of Mune or anyone else in the area right now. However, in the small clearing in the middle of the field, where he and Taji are currently standing, it appears there may have been some digging of some kind relatively recently. They look like gopher holes or some other burrowing rodent. Pretty basic field-dwelling animal stuff, right? Well, yes, but the fact that there are eight of them situated in a rough circle around the clearing may be a bit odd…
Taji frowns and focuses his chakra, trying to sense anything in the immediate area that could be a reasonable chakra source (chakra sensitivity), but senses nothing obvious. He frowns a bit more, "You sense anything? I'm… at a loss. I feel like we should stay a bit longer, just in case. We do need the supplies, and…. unless you know another source of them this is really our best shot." He points out, "But I leave it to you, you make the call." He says as he backs up a bit, not to search but to sit on a stump, "I say we wait a bit though, that's my vote, for now." He seems to consider himself safe for the moment.
Serin notices the gopher holes swiftly, but just does not connect the dots immediately. He has seen many such holes while scouting the area. It is not until he turns around in a full circle, scanning the horizon in all directions for anything out of place that his brain begins to pick up something wrong. Warning bells go off in the back of his mind. "…."
Looking down at the ground again, Serin searches the immediate area for any signs of digging. Large open area… No holes in the middle. That makes sense. Rodents that make passages out in the middle of an open area tend to get eaten quickly. The holes are too small for people to be concealed within them… It's probably nothing.
He attempts to ignore his gut and his years of experience. He has to give up on that life. He has to. Even though he had planned to follow and kill Mune after she left this meeting, he did not want to break from his agreement otherwise. It is one thing to end the life of a deadly monster, and another to run around stabbing innocent people because he HAS to. Mune's death is necessary. That is all there is to it.
Serin shifts and looks around again, still feeling a sickening worry in his stomach. What is he missing? Earth Release, maybe!? As Taji seats himself on the ancient stump, Serin swiftly draws his wakizashi, channels Lightning Chakra through it, and then plants the blade in the earth in a single smooth motion. He remains hunched over the blade, channeling electricity into the ground in as large a radius as he can manage. If anyone was hiding underground they will now either be trapped until they reiniate the jutsu or be forced to emerge! …Hopefully, anyway.
When Serin draws his blade and plants it in the ground, discharging Lightning Chakra into the earth… Nothing happens. Someone is approaching the clearing, running at ninja speeds but not quite sprinting. It's not an attempt to get here faster than a non-ninja would, just an attempt to get here. Of course, without a certain sword Serin is unable to detect the impact of footfalls approaching through vibrations. What Taji may detect, however, is a large wave of Chakra rushing from the direction of that approaching person. An automatic response to those trained in sensing Chakra may result, rather than the response form those intentionally trying to sense enemies or Genjutsu.
The wave of Chakra would have an immediate effect on the clearing. Eight clouds of smoke would erupt from the 'gopher holes' along with the *boom*s of displaced air, and suddenly the clearing would be not-so-clear. Smoke fills the area… And then dissipates, revealing four figures dressed in the garments of Konoha ANBU, and four other individuals — two ninja from Takigakure (Waterfall Village), and two of the royal guards of the Fire Daimyou.
They have Taji and Serin surrounded.
As the figures appear, Taji startles, and leaps to his feet, "Trap!" He blurts out as he immediately starts evaluating exit points, his own senses extending as he eyes the suddenly appearing ninja, eight in all. Even as the smoke clears, Taji is starting to flee, apparently relying on Serin to be able to find his own exit. Eight against two is not good odds after all. Even as he turns to run he's already focusing chakra to be ready to defend if it comes to that. It might be an over-reaction but Taji is taking no chances as he starts to try to make the quickest exit that he can, attempting to get around the nearest suddenly appearing figure in his retreat efforts.
Serin already has his sword drawn, so when the smoke clouds erupt from the holes he takes only a fraction of a second to draw it up and leap backwards to try to stay close to Taji and defend him. This is hindered by Taji choosing to flee — perhaps not realizing that Serin has just moved into position to keep the Genin safe. 'Stay still!' he thinks with a twinge of frustration before turning to cover Taji's retreat by reaching for a pouch full of smoke bombs he has at his hip. He would have just started slashing and killing if Taji had not been present and in need of protection. Fighting would have been easier. Protecting people is… Well… Hard!
"Stay where you are!" Serin calls out hoarsely. Something about this seems off. None of these people have weapons drawn, and they could have struck the moment that they appeared if they wished to. They knew where their targets were, and they could have just started hurling shuriken or kunai bombs or whatever else from the safety of the smoke clouds.
Serin thus holds off on attacking, the pale-skinned swordsman watching the men surrounding them warily. If Taji continues trying to flee, then Serin will have no choice but to vanish and appear on the other side of the figure nearest to Taji, leaving behind a person cut in half via an invisible sword stroke. Hopefully that will not be necessary.
As Serin and Taji both react to the sudden appearance, the ambushers… Do nothing, really. Only when Taji reaches the south-east edge of the circle, the space between two of the new arrivals does one of the Konohagakure ANBU somehow 'slide' into the Genin's path. He does not have his arms raised, weapon drawn, or anything else, however. His fox mask seems to be directed forward… And well over Taji's head, given the placement of the eyeholes. Does he even know Taji is there?
Given that he moved to block escape a logical answer may be 'yes'. But appearances are not everything. Assuming no combat breaks out, about thirty seconds later a woman in a long white coat, white pants, black boots, and… Apparently minimal coverage underneath the coat can be seen running towards the clearing. She has dark skin, and medium-length, shaggy blonde hair. When she gets close enough to see who is at the clearing she'll call out, "It's alright! It's me!" from behind the high collar of her coat that masks the lower half of her face.
Of course, if violence DOES happen then she keeps her distance, though remains visible. If Serin winds up cutting down one of the ambushers, the spray of blood will not match that of a normal adversary… The exact reason for this may take a second to put together. Or perhaps not, if Serin is an especially quick thinker.
Taji is quick to follow orders, when he is told 'stay where you are' he pauses, doubly so when the figure moves to block his path. He retreats from the circle towards Serin. From his actions it is clear he is the less combat experienced of the two in the circle, but willing to rely on Serin's abilities. Appropriate for a Courier ninja, or messanger, as he follows orders. He doesn't attack, but he clearly is ready to defend if need be, as he waits… when someone calls out that it is alright, Taji looks for the source of the voice, grumbling as he does so, clearly not liking the feeling of being 'trapped' in the circle.
Taji stopping his fleeing strategy and returning to the center of the ring is good enough for Serin. He looks around, noting the relaxed, nearly 'limp' arms and hands of the people. They hold themselves in a perfectly calm and 'nerveless' sort of manner. He puts it together with the way they move and the lack of expression on the faces of the two Waterfall-ninja. The white-haired man hears the voice of Mune and the last piece falls into place. "Shimatta! <Damn it!>" he mutters. This is possibly the first sign of annoyance or anger that Serin has ever displayed in front of Taji.
He straightens up from his combat-ready stance and sheathes his sword right away, without even bothering to wait and make sure it's safe. He must be confident this is not a trap after all. Once Mune is closer, he calls out in his more usual emotionless voice, "You know better than to surprise me, Kishi-san. What purpose is served with this display?" He waits for an answer, rather than asking any further questions. And he has many. Maybe Taji hasn't realized it, but Serin has recognized the key differences between living opponents and dead bodies…
"They're corpses," he says calmly to the courier-nin that Taji appears to be as he turns to face the disguised Genin.
Mune continues approaching, and once she sees that Serin is relaxing and putting his sword away, she slows down a bit. After all, she is no longer in a rush to halt an unnecessary fight. Once she enters the circle — with the Konoha ANBU member conveniently 'sliding' aside to let her pass — Mune says, "Why the hell were you using Ninjutsu? They were only supposed to trigger if Ninjutsu occurred within range of their scrolls!" Mune turns to one of the corpses and then strides over to it — one of the royal guards. She plants a hand on the dead man's chest, focuses a small amount of Chakra and then says, "…They record at least THREE Ninjutsu being used but only one triggered the scrolls. I guess the other two were so low-powered that they didn't register." Maybe she shouldn't have said that outloud. That means that these two now know that Mune's detection methods are not fool-proof. She had hoped that she had narrowed down the problems with the sensing scrolls but apparently not. She even tried to send a 'shut down' signal to them from a distance when she was alerted to the scrolls activating. Apparently they didn't pick THAT up either.
Sighing, she turns away and withdraws her hand. "Yes, they're corpses. Like them?" she asks in a disturbingly cheerful tone. "They weren't easy to collect. Not all of them at least." She looks in the direction of the ANBU operatives to the north, north-east, south-east, and south.
The courier-nin (Taji) frowns as he eyes the dead people, noting the presence of some of the Land of Fire's Daimyo's personal guard. Then he shakes his head, as if trying to dismiss it, "Strange way to keep a meeting point safe, laying traps." He mutters as he tries to gather himself, finding the dead bodies less than pleasant from the looks of it. Then he finally asks, "Do you have the goods on the list? I'd rather get this transaction over with sooner rather than later if we could. With the tournament ending, some of us will have to return to… wherever." He points out, "Lack of cover for meetings and all." He glances around then looks back to Mune, after glancing back at Serin. While Taji has done his best to appear to find the whole dead people thing just another annoying ninjutsu, it is clear it has put him a bit off, even as he tries to hide that reaction. At least that reaction isn't that out of place.
Serin says, "I agree with this courier. We have other things to do and other places to be. Let's get this overwith quickly." Serin then reaches inside of his cloak and withdraws a carrying case of some kind. Black, about three feet long, and with a silver dragon embossed on the case itself, the container has a handle for holding it and straps to make it easy to carry when one's hands are occupied. He does not explain what the case contains. He just walks forward and holds it out with both hands — one hand on each end of the case.
Corpses? Been there, done that. Even moving corpses are not outside of Serin's realm of experience. He has fought Puppeteers before, and when their Puppets were destroyed in battle the skilled ones could make do with the bodies of the fallen.
"I trust you will find this to be satisfactory payment?" Serin asks dully.
Mune is not as adept at recognizing body language as some others. She does not notice that the courier is any more ill-at-ease than anyone else would be in this situation. "It was supposed to keep YOU two safe by preventing anyone from laying traps or spying devices or similar in the area. Though I will admit that my own safety is a priority as well." Sighing, the dark-skinned woman shrugs. She was concealed in the garments of an Inspector of Kusagakure the last time they met, so the full details of her appearance were not seen. She apparently feels it is safe enough to reveal herself out here. "Yes, I have the materials right here," Mune answers finally after digging out a tightly-wound scroll from inside of her white longcoat.
"Red ink is perishable supplies — things that need to be refrigerated or just will expire eventually. As long as they remain sealed they'll stay fresh. Put them back when you're done with them. Black ink is non-perishable supplies. Scalpels, sutures, EKG machine, air pumps, intravenous feed lines and unused bags, so on and so forth."
When Serin pulls out THAT, however, the confident and collected Medic-Nin's cyan eyes widen for a moment before she masks her surprise. "Is that what I think it is?" She moves forward to accept the case with one hand, while holding out the scroll for the 'courier-nin' to take with the other. "I'd almost say you're overpaying if this is really…" she trails off.
Taji spares a glance at the silver dragon embossed case, frowning just slightly as he tries to place it. He does turn his attentions fully to Mune as the instructions of what is what are explained. He simply nods, trying to keep his speaking to a minimum to avoid easy detection in the future, his voice flat and rather… non-descript. He takes the scroll provided by Mune, and checks it over even as she takes Serin's scroll, or moves over to do so at least.
Taji frowns in concentration as he checks to make sure every thing on the request list is actually here, top to bottom, that nothing important is missing.
Serin says calmly, "I do not know what you think it is, but there are three samples of metal in this case. Transmitting Chakra Metal, Self-Repairing Steel, and the Lightning-Imbued High-Frequency Steel. They can be used to produce Soutou, Dantou, and Raitou. You showed interest before when I mentioned them…"
Serin hands over the case and then backs up to stand by Taji — though at a respectful distance, since supposedly the courier-nin is just that. "Once everything is confirmed to be present, the other half of your payment will be provided." A pause from Serin, then he turns to look at the disguised Taji expectantly, though patiently.
Mune accepts the case almost… Eagerly. For the moment she has lost all concern for safety as she opens the case immediately and looks upon its contents with hungry eyes. "Yes… Yes, this will do nicely. Only three, though? I thought you said there was another… Daitou. The shark egg. Could you not get that one?" Mune closes the lid after inspecting the three metal samples arranged in the case. Looking up, she watches the courier-nin briefly, before turning her attention back on Serin. "We never decided what jutsu I would be receiving. It better be a good one. These metals will cover the material costs easily, but the time I have spent on this is worth a lot more than just medical supplies."
Taji finishes looking over the list bit by bit, taking his time to be accurate. He actually has a copy of the original list to make sure there is nothing out of place. He seems to be taking this quite seriously. Once he has checked off each item on the list he puts his list away and then puts the scrolls into a scroll pouch and reaches out for another scroll. This one looks fresh and new, a clean prepared scroll sealed with no obvious seal of importance, just a random pattern of some sort, along with two hairs crossed at a specific angle. All to make sure that it would be impossible to reseal without making it obvious the seal had been broken.
Taji steps forward to Mune and gives a small bow, "Everything seems in order. My master has instructed me to provide this scroll to you. I'm afraid I was not instructed on the contents, simply that it should be useful to one skilled in the healing arts." He offers as he extends it, "It is sent with thanks for the services provided."
Serin shakes his head. "The egg was already used. Samehada has a wielder." That is all he has to say, apparently. He watches the exchange take place between Taji and Mune and then says, "We're leaving now." Then he turns and begins to walk off. No farewells or anything else. And if those corpses get in the way…
Mune accepts the scroll and her eyes take in the fact there are a couple hairs in the wax seal. "I'm sure," she murmurs. "Tell your master it was a pleasure doing business with him." The animated corpses provide no barrier to Serin, instead just 'sliding' out of the way. Mune then calls out, "You might want to be careful. I'm fairly certain these ANBU were after you, but the royal guards were snooping around for a different reason. They didn't say what that reason was, but it was dangerous enough that someone killed them for it." A pause as Mune seems to finally pick up on Taji's/the courier's discomfiture. "What, did you think I killed all of these men? I just put the bodies in storage for analysis as medical cadavers. The fact they wound up serving an alternate purpose is irrelevant. Don't think you're dealing with a murderer here or anything. Life is too precious to take it from others on a whim."
Then the dark-skinned blonde sets about storing the dead bodies back in their scrolls and then putting the scrolls away.
Taji tries to hide his noticable relief at hearing that Mune didn't assasinate these people herself. But he is relieved. He moves to follow Serin, the transaction complete and all. He doesn't speak for a while, just making sure to follow Serin. Once he's fairly sure they are well out of ear shot and feels like there is no one around he asks Serin, "Think we are being followed or are we safe?" He glances around, trying to be sure if things are clear or not, just to be on the safe side and all. He seems a tad paranoid right now, at least until being clear of this mess.
Serin shakes his head. "She has no reason to follow us. She has a hunger for knowledge, but she has a very keen sense of self-preservation. She knows we will be on-guard after the triggering of her scrolls. Our business is concluded, and it would be safer to let us walk and hope to get more business in the future by appearing trustworthy."
Serin goes silent after that. A little while after that, he asks, "When can we start?"
Taji nods, then glances at Serin, "Soon. Do you have the things in place you need? This should take a week. Give or take. The tournament is over, people are heading back to homelands. You need to find a good secluded spot, where nothing will find you and where it will be safe for a week. Gather food and if drink is not near by your safe location, gather that as well. I have to take care of something. Find me as I head back towards Konohagakure, I should be alone. That's when. Shouldn't be more than a day or so at most."
He glances back then looks back to Serin, "Make sure you're ready for this. Every last thing taken care of. No going back." He says, firmly. "Assuming all goes well my master should be able to take care of things in under a week."