Date: April 30, 2011
A new toytool leads to a precarious predicament for an academy student, while her classmates deal in varying ways with their less-than-ideal family situations. Also, a person with a hidden agenda arrives in Sunagakure.
"Grappling with Family Issues"
Sentou Valley [Sunagakure]
Sentou Valley, or 'Spire Valley', obtained its name from the fact that the oldest intact structures of the City of the Sands lie along the descending road from the Village Entrance towards the Village Central Area, creating a sort of 'valley'. It is rather deep, with high stone walls on both sides, and buildings that are towering sandstone 'spires' atop the walls. These spires are used as housing for a large part of Sunagakure's population, and have proven to be sturdy enough to survive even powerful earthquakes. Narrow staircases lead up and down the sides of the walls at various points, many of them branching off into much broader bridges that span the valley, from one side to the other.
The stone stairs are carved directly from the valley walls, but sturdy metal railings have been added in recent times as a safety precaution, and balconies and fabric overhangs have likewise been added on to provide places to rest, as well as shade from the glaring sun during the day. The valley below the spires is very broad and is often used as both a passage from one place to another as well as a place to meet for discussion between adults, games amongst children, and various merchants selling their goods. However, most merchants are found in the marketplace itself in the Village Center.
One thing to note is that at around noon and the hour immediately preceding and following such, very few people will actively be making use of Sentou Valley for travel or staying for extended periods. This is because the heat will become trapped in the valley, reflecting off the high walls, and turn the place into a virtual oven. Water is recommended to have on hand in abundance when making the long trek from the Village Center Area to Nanpuu Street or vice-versa.
To the north lies the Village Center Area and the Kazekage Administration Dome. To the south lies Nanpuu Street and the Village Entrance.
Tools are toys, in the mind of a child. This is a truth which has been inconvenient for caregivers down through the ages. Occasionally a parent (or more often an indulgent relative) will present a child with an object which has a serious use -- a hatchet, for example, with the last-minute admonition, 'Now don't use it to chop anything!' This said even as the child homes in on the nearest wooden object, as if there was anything else to do with it. :P Sometimes the tool may even sort of qualify as a toy, such as a bicycle. Regardless, it's certain that its usage will go beyond simply riding around the neighborhood and admiring the scenery.
In Megumi's case? Her grandmother on her father's side, from an eccentric clan of mechanics, has armed the little academy student with a forearm-mounted grapple launcher. (She wanted to literally arm her with it, as part of an upgradable prosthetic limb, but Shemri wouldn't have any of that. >P) The idea, ostensibly, is that it will become a part of her toolkit as a shinobi. And it very likely will…but as anybody with children could've predicted (and Gramma conveniently failed to think about), Megumi is now running around Suna launching the grapple at anything that looks remotely sturdy enough to support her and swinging from the line. "Woooohoooo! Catch me if you can!" n.n
Minako, meanwhile, is proceeding with Stage One of her >genius plan<. She intends to make sure that no one who should not know about it is aware of her intention to sneak out of Sunagakure and go in search of her parents. To that end, Stage One involves identifying all the possible escape routes within the Village, how many guards are typically assigned to each, how long each shift for those guards is, drawing likely ways to avoid detection, aspects of the environment that can be used as cover, and any tools or supplies that she thinks she should obtain before the day of 'Operation: Make Like A Tree And Get Out Of Here'. This she has been doing for several days now, and she has quite a collection of notes, maps, and similar.
The 'valley' that cuts through the southern portion of Sunagakure has proven to be an unlikely place to use for Minako's escape. The red-head, however, has to make sure she covers every angle anyway. Travelling through the valley itself would be unwise, as there are great stretches of exposed ground with no cover, and anyone who looks in her direction would see her readily. Likewise, there are many houses and buildings atop both sides of the valley's walls, and thus lots of people who might see or overhear her if she is not careful. There is also the chance of simply running into someone for whatever reason, and her silhouette against the moonlight would be pretty visible too. However, Minako's apartment is in Spire Housing, so she has limited options in regard to Sentou Valley. She can avoid it completely, but that will restrict her path of egress to only one route -- west. She can also try to risk the valley, but that still restricts her passage to one side or the other, and she can only head south.
Minako thinks the valley was intended to serve as a sort of deathtrap for invaders, with archers and such stationed atop the walls, and barriers in place to keep intruders from assaulting those archers. That would force the outsiders to either circle around laboriously and encounter all sorts of other traps and defenders, or go down into the valley and get massacred by arrows and boiling oil and who-knows-what-else from above, all for a >shot< at reaching the Administration Dome. It's really a lose-lose situation.
Very clever, but also very annoying for the Uzumaki girl's attempts to get >out< of the Village. Thus, she is presently on one of the landings that is attached to one of the stair-wells that creep up the wall-faces of the valley, looking around and noting the various features of the valley. When she hears a girlish voice squealing happily, she takes a moment to lean over the edge of the landing and peer down. "…Maneshi, what are you doing down there?" she calls down when she recognizes Megumi.
Hirugaki Hisu is on 'vacation'. That is what her identification papers and so forth say, at least. Infact, they also claim her name is 'Ayanami Asuka', the niece of an aging couple living near Sunagakure but not actually within it, and she is visiting them for a week. Hisu actually just picked that couple out of a directory because they were not important in any way and never had been, and it was unlikely anyone would bother to ask them if they actually had a niece.
And so, 'Asuka' has entered Sunagakure and spent much of the day site-seeing and acting the part of a tourist. It has been stupidly hot and dry throughout her time in the Land of Wind, and even as evening approaches it is unpleasantly warm. However, she will adjust and deal with it. Because she is not actually here as a tourist. She is here for a very DIFFERENT purpose.
This purpose requires that she know the layout of the Village in particular spots, so that she can meet with certain people best described as 'customers'. She has what they want, and they will pay for it. Meeting here in Sunagakure, one of the most prolific espionage-oriented locations in the ninja world, may seem like a bad idea to some, but it actually works out nicely. Hisu/Asuka and her customers will not be doing anything illegal in or nearby Sunagakure, so there are no grounds for arresting or interfering. Further, neither Hisu nor her customers are known to be directly responsible for any crimes, nor are they necessarily wanted by authorities. They are information brokers, not thieves, murderers, or terrorists. At the same time, the presence of all these ninja should ward off those who might want to 'poach' on Hisu's jobs or even from other customers. And, of course, Hisu herself will be safe from backstabbing for the same reasons.
Right now, the teenage girl is dressed in something resembling a sailor fuku, such as is worn by schoolgirls in some countries. She has a backpack, and a functional, but not-high-tech camera, and she is exploring the Village. Sentou Valley happens to be where she is at the moment. For now, she is not near enough to speak to either of the Students, but she can hear them being loud thanks to the echoes.
Megumi glances up on hearing her mother's clan's name. She grins. Oh goodie, an audience and an excuse to use her new toy all in one! n.n She winds up her launcher, then points it up at the landing where Minako is. It shoots upward and latches onto the ledge with a *CLANK*. Giving the line a good tug to make certain it's secure, Megumi proceeds to crank the line back in again, pulling herself up with her feet giving a little extra boost against the wall. "Hey, Minako-san! Look what my Gramma gave me! Isn't it the coolest?" :D She reaches the ledge and…sorta hangs there. Oh yeah, she hasn't really tried to do anything like this before…shoulda thought of that before making her first go someplace so high up, huh? "Um…could you…give me a hand up or something?" n.n;
Minako stares down at Megumi as she reels herself up to the landing -- most of the way, at least. "…." She starts to move forward to help her, but then just rests her elbows on the railing and leans on them as she looks down nonchalantly. "Oh, I don't know… I suppose I >could<. But then you wouldn't learn anything, would you? I mean, what happens if you're out in The Field, on a Mission, and you have to scale a cliff or a castle wall or something? Then what will you do? You just going to dangle there until a friend comes along to haul you up? Or until an enemy comes along and cuts the line?"
Are her points valid? Yes. But she's still being a jerk. "C'mon! Use some upper body strength! Pull yourself up until you can get a handhold! You can do it!"
'Asuka', meanwhile, has progressed far enough along the valley that she can look up at the source of the loud little-girl voices, and see what appears to be one girl hanging precariously from a very poorly secured line or tether or somesuch. Her yellow eyes narrow with vague concern. 'That looks very dangerous!' she thinks to herself. The 'schoolgirl' is not just going to stand there and do nothing. Maybe nothing will happen, but if something DOES happen… Yes, this is not okay. 'I have to do something!' she decides finally.
Hisu thus turns and walks towards the cover of the back-and-forth staircase and its various landings, so that if Megumi DOES fall, she will not land on Hisu herself. "Problem solved~," she lilts to herself with a smug smile. Then she begins making her way up the stairs. Maybe she can get a better view of the area from above…
"SHE'S A MONSTER!"
"IT WASN'T ME!"
"I'M OUTTA HERE!"
Five boys run through the streets in a rather pell-mell fashion, branching off down different alleyways and sometimes rejoining each other as the winding streets come together, only to veer off again. They appear to range in age from eight-to-elevenish, fleeing in a panic, all of them carrying a ball, though they each appear to be trying to ditch it by handing it off to the next boy they come across. This goes on for a moment before anything they might be fleeing becomes apparent.
Then comes a small girl, wearing a black shirtdress and a red bandanna, her short blonde hair flying about wildly where it peeks out. It's likely not the girl herself they are fleeing from, but the oversized, ridiculously-thick-for-her-body log she was wielding as a club while chasing them! She bowls people out of her way as she passes, knocking over a cart and a dog as she rushes after them. Each time one of them comes within any hint of striking distance, the giant club *SMASH*es into the ground, narrowly missing them. This continues on for a distance, kicking up a cloud of dust and disturbance along otherwise calm and orderly streets.
It's not until a boy takes an abrupt right-angle turn that apparently saves his life, causing Harada Misayo's boy-bashing implement to become lodged in a now mostly-crushed crate. She hefts it back over her shoulder after a moment, attached crate and all… but by now the boys had gained some distance on her. And she was beginning to feel fatigued. It had been nine days since her last treatment, and, for perhaps the first time in front of anyone, she was actually breathing a little heavily. After a minute or so, the log-crate crashes to the ground when she releases her hold on it. She glances up at some kind wind-chime that was-
That was no wind chime! The blonde's hands hover at her brow, shielding her eyes from the sun as she scowls up at the girl from her class, dangling like an over-sized kitty toy. "Oh! You there! If I am hitting you, candy should be falling out. You are not a pinata, Fakergumi!"
Megumi grunts and tries to increase her grip on the ledge. It's not easy to do that without letting go, of course. "Well, yeah, but…I forgot I haven't done this before, and…doncha think I should get to practice someplace safer first?" c.c; Is she capable of pulling herself up? Quite possibly. She's still pretty young, but she's been in the academy for a while now, and they don't exactly slack on the phys-ed around there. Still, it would have to be all upper-body, and her fingers are already starting to hurt, and there's a pretty large penalty for failure! x.x Megumi glances down as somebody else starts shouting up at her. "What? Candy? What are you talking about! Help me out here!"
Minako hears a number of loud crashes and impacts coming in her direction from further down the valley. She listens vaguely to Megumi as she leans far over the railing to try to see what's causing it. She glances away for a moment and says, "Well… Fine." Reluctantly, she moves closer to help Megumi up. It may be fun to tease, but picking on someone who cannot defend herself feels >wrong< to the red-head… Too much like bullying. So she prepares to help the younger girl up, just as she hears Misayo's familiar voice shouting from below. Hands that had seized hold of Megumi's forearms and started to lift let go as Minako moves to the side again and leans over to wave at the blonde far below!
"Misa-chan~! Come up here! I've got stuff to tell you about!" Then she remembers Megumi again. "…Oh, uhh. Right." Wiping away a large sweatdrop from her forehead, she dashes back and starts hauling Megumi up again. Unless she fell after the first attempt was interrupted, in which case there will be only Misayo to break the girl's fall!
Is she aware that there's a foreign girl coming up the stairs below/behind her? Nope. Some ninja she is turning out to be!
Hisu/Asuka continues climbing the stairs, but pauses when all those huge impacts and loud noises can be felt and heard from her position. What is going on? An earthquake? She heard this Village was prone to such. But no, it turns out to be a third little girl with a rather bossy tone to her voice. Shaking her head, Hisu continues up the stairs until she comes up on the landing behind Minako. There she just stands and watches the odd spectacle, waiting until it is safe to speak so as not to cause any mishaps.
"Hmph! Help, help, help! That is what those noisy boys were screaming. And look at them now, eh! I have no ladder." A look to the left, then to the right. "I am needing a ladder." But a third voice entering into the mix causes her brain to discard the ladder for now. If only she had stretchable arms…
"Oh, Mina-chan, you are being here, too. I am hearing that it is impolite to be pushing people off of the stairs! But I am approving of your harsh teaching methods." The blonde's head tilts first one way, and then the other. "I am feeling if I had been doing it, you would now be yelling the word 'bully'. You are being as inconsistent in your actions as the Shorty-sensei."
For a moment, Misayo begins to look for a way to ascend the stairs, provided Megumi hasn't yet fell upon her head to the possible death of one or both of them. But she turns the wrong way, and then keeps turning. And turning. And turning. And finally, after having turned in a full circle and spotted the way to begin climbing the stairs up to the level all the other girls seemed to be at, the bandana-wearing girl looks back upwards with a wave.
"I AM GOING TO BE COMING UP NOW! WE WILL BE PUSHING MORE CHILDREN OFF OF THE LEDGE TOGETHER!"
This comment draws a few stares.
Megumi feels relief flood through her, although she's not safe quite yet. They'll have to be careful about this, it wouldn't be fun if Minako winds up falling off and dangling from Megumi's -- WHOA! O.O; Megumi feels Minako's hands slip off and falls back a bit, now gripping the ledge by only one hand. Not fun! After a moment's flailing, she manages to scrabble her free hand back over the edge, and then is rewarded by the renewed pull from Minako. Finally, she is able to grab hold of one of the railing poles and tug her body scrapingly up to safety. Phew. u.u; "Thanks…Minako-san," Megumi pants. She looks down the stairs with a scowl. "Nobody's pushing anybody off any ledges, okay! I was just trying out my new grapple launcher and I got in over my head!" >.<
Minako frowns and waits until Megumi is up on the landing and then turns and yells down at the street, ">I didn't push her! She was using some kind of Cat Grappling Hook or something to climb up!<" She pauses and then continues on with, "A Catpling hook! …A catting hook! Grapcat… Grap… …. …She was climbing up, not falling down, okay!?" Then she realizes Misayo is already on her way up, and she is yelling at a street full of people staring at her.
So she gives them the middle finger and turns back to wait for Misayo--"Where the did you come from!?" she yells out as she startles a bit upon finding an unfamiliar girl in a sailor fuku standing a few feet away. "…Don't sneak up on me like that!" she admonishes after a moment. "Can't you tell I'm almost a ninja!? You should know better than to sneak up on a kunoichi-in-training! I might have flipped out and kicked you in the face!"
She finishes shaking her index finger remonstratingly at the black-haired girl and then crosses her arms over her chest.
Taking a moment to assess the other girl, Misayo judges that she must be like… 18 or 19, because she is clearly more shapely than an average schoolgirl. After all, just look at those legs! Minako would >kill< to have legs like that. >Kill<. Turning back to Megumi, Minako says, "Make sure you don't leave behind your pu--no, wait. That one would just sound wrong. Umm… Feline-hook! Don't forget it! Misayo will probably take it or something if you do!"
Hisu arches a slender eyebrow as Minako jumps and yells and hollers. 'Such a noisy little girl,' she thinks to herself. Aware that a certain other loud girl is on her way up, Hisu turns and moves aside so as not to block the stairs. Then she lowers her head in a slight bow to the red-head and the brunette next to her. "Gomen nasai," she offers in the high-pitched voice of Japanese schoolgirls everywhere, even managing to cast a pink blush on her cheeks as though embarassed by her actions. "Startling you was not my intent." Then she turns her gaze on Megumi and asks, "Are you a kunoichi-in-training as well?" Straightening up, she waits for the last of this trio of children to arrive. Small talk will do for now.
The sixteen-year-old-in-a-twelve-year-old's body begins running towards the beginning of the stairs, pumping her skinny arms and legs almost as powerfully as she had when chasing the younger boys through the streets. Had she actually been intending to murder them with an enormous billyclub? That was up for debate. For now, her sandaled feet are too busy kicking up sand on the stairs as she scritches her way, half-slipping every now and tehn in her haste, to get up to the landing where her other two classmates were. And some strange lady, who was just now coming into view.
Misayo's pounding feet come to a halt, her shirtdress swirling about her calves as she stops, her hands on her hips, cooly scowling at the back of the unrecognized olderish girl. Her eyes travel down, and then up once, silence on her end hanging in the air before she offers up what is surely one of her best friend-making other-person assessments yet!
"…You are a tramp." She points towards the the apparent-oldest girl's legs. "I am hearing that only tramps are wearing these things at your age. I am hearing that your father would be ashamed of you." It's not even said belligerently! Almost as if this were perfectly normal conversation for the blonde-haired little girl. And then she frowns Megumi's way. "I am betting your mother is not knowing you are being a pinata in your spare time."
A beat. "Are we not pushing anyone over the edge, then?"
Megumi tilts her head. "Um…not to sound like I don't wanna be anything like my Mommy, but just because she's got a ninja cat doesn't mean everything's about cats for me. I don't even have a cat of my own." Megumi finishes reeling the grapple into the mechanism attached to her arm. "Actually, I'm thinking of trying to learn how to make stuff like this. Gramma's amazing at it. The grapple release in this thing actually works by pulling the cord and then slacking it again, so it lets go as soon as you're done swinging or whatever. How cool is -- " Megumi blinks and looks over at Hisu. "Oh, um…yeah, I am. Uh, who are you?" The old 'Don't talk to strangers' admonition runs through Megumi's mind, although it seems a little late now. c.c And speaking of which, Megumi talks to Misayo, what's stranger than that? e.e "I bet your mother does know you're a jerk and she just doesn't care." :P
Minako frowns, but this lady apologized so there's not much else for it. She looks at Megumi briefly and says, "Why don't you have a cat yet? Can't your mom's cat pop out a kitten or something? Seems kind of weird that you'd be going through training without a cat." Is she >not listening< or something? "I mean, sure, you have a grappling hook. But if you had a cat then you could just tie a rope to her tail and swing her 'round and >throw< her up high and then she can tie the rope around something and then tug on it to give you the signal, and then you can climb up, and and and--"
The over-excited red-head is gesturing indicatively with her hands to illustrate the entire process, but then trails off when Misayo shows up. "…No, we're not pushing anyone. I mean, I guess we could push >you< if you >insist<…" then Minako grins evilly and starts creeping towards her friend with her hands held at about shoulder level, fingers bent and twisted like some old witch's gnarled digits.
Hisu turns to face Misayo when she arrives with sandaled feet skidding. She keeps her hands folded at her waist for the moment, and smiles brightly, all ^_^ to the blonde. When Misayo's first words are such insulting ones, Hisu amazingly does not lose her smile. Instead, she just says calmly and cheerfully, "My father is dead." She waits about a second and a half and then looks down at her clothing. "I am 16-years old and this is appropriate school uniform for girls my age in my homeland. If it offends you, little girl, then I am deeply sorry." She bows briefly, and then turns her attention back on Megumi as Minako prepares to hurl Misayo over the edge.
"My name is Ayanami Asuka. I am spending a week here in the Land of Wind with my uncle and aunt. Sunagakure is relatively nearby, so I came to see what a real ninja village is like! …And buy some souvenirs, too." She winks and unslings her backpack in order to open it and show off some nick-nacks and tourist-hooking-garbage that she has bought. Most of it claims to be 'authentic' something-or-other, but it's almost assured that all of it or nearly all of it is cheap trash made in someone's basement. They're not the sort of things that residents of Sunagakure would be caught dead with.
Hisu/'Asuka' pulls out a gold-painted statue of a gorilla that has a pyramid on its head like a hat. "I was told this one is an authentic, genuine, high-quality, premium, gourmet replica of statuette recovered from a temple somewhere in the desert that may date back to over a thousand years ago!" She pushes a switch on its back and the statue starts clapping its hands together through some sort of mechanical function. "Is it not just adorable?" ^_^
A blink. "Of course she is knowing that. That is why she is leaving me when I am being ten. …Duh!" With her hands on her hips, and the way she whips her chin to-and-fro from side to side, only serves to make the blond-haired preteen look like a little girl trying to pretend to be a prima-donna. "But I am betting that YOUR mommy is not knowing that you are a kitty-hater and balcony-dangler!"
She doesn't get very long to >:| at Asuka's statue, because the redhead is creeping towards her with deadly-intent! Misayo knows it is deadly intent because her hands are held up and formed into wickedly-evil little claws that no one should be wielding. For a moment, she lifts her chin, narrows her eyes, and scowls dangerously, as if trying to non-verbally dare the younger girl into trying to push her. Then, she throws up her hands, turns around…
…And begins to run away back down the stairs! "I am feeling that it is being completely appropriate and beneficiary to my health to be relocating my person to another place that is not this place!" She's yelling over her shoulder, fleeing the Minako-tips-Misayo-over-the-edge-of-the-balcony attack before it has even commenced yet. She was reasonably sure that such a fall would not do more than momentarily stun her… but she was also pretty sure that when she simply hopped back up it would be highly suspicious!
"You are not to be touching me in a harmful and contradictory to my being in good health manner or you will not be getting the hands that are attached to your wrists back!" Bold threats from a girl who was running away.
Megumi blinks…slowly. "Um…did they say the original did that clapping thing too? 'Cuz if it did…it was probably just a toy some kid lost." Either that, or folks a thousand years ago were gullible enough to think it was magic. -.-; Then again, Megumi's apparently gullible enough to consider that there might be some truth to the merchant's story, so who is she to judge?
After watching Misayo's abrupt departure with faint amusement, Megumi shrugs. "Well, I should probably get home now. See you later, Minako-san. Um, nice meeting you, Asuka-san." Megumi gives a bow, then heads off down the stairs.
Minako just -__-s at the statue and then blinks as Misayo goes running off. She then starts to chase after her! It may be a game, but what's a game if she doesn't play too!? She skids to a stop half-way down the stairs and calls up, "See ya', Megumi-san!" Then she resumes running until she is all the way down to the street. A moment after reaching ground-level, she comes to a sudden realization. Tilting her head back, Minako stares wide-eyed up at the landing that Asuka is on.
She yells out, "16!? There's no way you can be 16 with a body like that! That's a lie! A damn, dirty lie! 16!? Seriously!?! Did you get Ninjutsu surgery done to you or something!? >No.< >Way!<" She then turns and resumes running after Misayo, continuing to mutter (very loudly) to herself about how impossible that is. Occasional echoes of an incredulous '16' or 'when I'm her age' float up and down the valley for awhile after she is gone.