Date: December 29, 2011
With some help from Taiki, Atsuro corners a watcher and conducts a brief interrogation.
"Inuzuka Pride Chronicles: Questions Answered"
Hokage Mountain Trail
Atsuro has spent the last few days hiking up and down the Hokage Mountain. Is it for fitness, for the fun of it? No, it's just Atsuro doing what he does best: scouting. And today all of his work will (hopefully) pay off. The plan is simple. He's already borrowed Taiki (making sure to use the excuse of training, just to allay any suspicions), and is currently leading him up a carefully chosen path. It's narrow, only leading up and down the mountain, all the better for trapping, but it has enough cover that anyone hoping to secretely follow them — of which there are two, in this plan — will feel comfortable.
Atsuro has allowed Shinobu to accompany Taiki, as normal, but has not brought Taizen for some reason. The trip has been explained to Taiki with a wink and a nod, but Atsuro hasn't explained its exact purpose — there's not really any way to be sure that nobody's listening in at a given moment.
Taiki follows his Sensei quietly up the mountain with his hands in his pockets. The trail they use is narrow enough that the gennin and his ninken spend most of their time concentrating on it rather than talking. Even so, there's a lose conversation going on between the Taiki and his partner, mainly centered around Sakura. "I told you she was full of hot air Shinobu," he says during a less-demanding part of the climb. "I know my parents well, though I made the mistake of doubting them once. Never again… I'll tell you that. The lecture they gave me last time was more than enough, thank you!"
Atsuro hasn't participated much in the conversation, nor even paid that much attention to it. The altercation from a few days back is significant, of course, but what he's currently doing is pretty high-stakes in his opinion. He just stays mostly quiet, only throwing in the occasional snarky comment to prevent the watcher from becoming suspicious. He also sniffs the air occasionally — not unusual for an Inuzuka, but may be of vital importance to his plan. He has to keep track of things.
Finally, the trap is sprung. "Oops," he says, "We're gonna have to go back Taiki. I forgot some equipment back home." He turns around and edges past Taiki so that he's still leading the group, just down the mountain now. "Don't worry," he says, grinning back at Taiki, "You're getting a little pudgy. The exercise'll do you good." He pokes Taiki teasingly in the belly, then starts heading back down the path.
"PUDGY?!" Taiki exclaimed, looking indignent. "I actually lost a centimeter, thanks to not eating well for the bast couple of weeks. There's no way I can be pudgy!" He continues to walk down the mountain before he sees a strange ninken backing away from Taizen. Taiki instantly recognizes the type, but finds it odd that it seems cornered by Taizen. For a moment Taiki considers the situation before ordering Shinobu to back Taizen up from this side. "Atsuro'sensei… what exactly is going on here?"
Taizen, for his part, is not doing a whole lot, simply sitting in the watcher's pathway, using his great mass to prevent the other dog from leaving. "That's a great question, isn't it?" Atsuro says through a smug smile. "It looks to me like this dog was following us up the mountain, but then he started going down… until Taizen got in the way." He turns to face the watcher. "Well, it's a good opportunity for a chat, right? It looks like nobody will go up or down for quite some time. Might as well make the most of it, I guess." He nods to the watcher, addressing it directly now. "Hi there. What's up?"
Taiki is far from unintelligent, and quickly begins to get what is going on here. He looks uncertain, but does not say much as Atsuro is calling the shots. So instead he folds up his arms and looks over the watcher, seeming to try to get the dog's measure. Otherwise he stands there, watching the dog as Atsuro talks to it.
The watcher stops growling at Taizen and turns toward Atsuro. Its canine mind seems to be weighing options before it finally speaks up,'Let me go human. My partner will not like you keeping me here. And though it is faint, I can smell your scent on the dog, so don't try to deny it's your partner. So let me go, and I won't tell mine.'
Atsuro leans against the cliff face, his expression still smug as can be. "Hey now," he says, "I'm not a bad guy. I don't want to keep you for long. All I want is to ask you a few questions. And believe me, you really want to answer them. You have no idea." Figuring that he's screwed if the dog says anything to his partner anyway, he decides to reveal a little information. "My name's Atsuro," he says, holding out his hand for the dog to smell, if he so desires. "What's yours?"
The 'good cop, no other cops' approach seems to be working well so far, so Atsuro sees no reason to change things. He withdraws his hand. "I have another question, but before I ask it, how about I give you a little more incentive." He reaches into his vest and pulls out a small package, tightly wrapped in paper and bound with twine. He carefully opens it. What he takes out of the package will inevitably send a rush of feelings through all present. It's long, dark, and smells like cooked flesh. Atsuro holds it lightly between his thumb and forefinger, not even wanting to get too much of its strong-smelling liquid on him. It's obvious he's through playing games.
"Want some?" He tears off a piece of the bacon and pops it in his mouth, chewing and swallowing to show that it isn't tainted, then holds the rest of the strip out to Kenichi. "How come you're up here, Kenichi?"
Kenichi sniffs the air and slinks back slightly from the flesh, wondering just how sick this Chuunin is. Still he is surprised when the man eats it, and lowers his head to look slightly sick, even though it is obviously some kind of meat. The smell is over-powering. 'I came up here for a walk, then decided to turn around and go back,' the ninken says. Shinobu takes this moment to growl at the dog, though Taiki is making no movements other than to sit down. There's not really a lot for the Genin to say at that place and time.
Atsuro shakes his head and withdraws the bacon. "I don't think you're being truthful with me, Kenichi. I was going to give you my bacon, but I dunno if I can just give away treats for any old fib. Come on now, it's already hard enough denying bacon to such a cute doggie." He holds out the treat once more. "It wasn't /really/ just a coincidence that you were up here, was it? You can tell me the truth. I promise I won't hurt you. I could never bear to see someone as adorable as you in pain." As if to emphasize this, he uses his free hand to take off his kunai holster and equipment pouch and lets them drop to the ground. Then he slides out of his chuunin vest and holds it out to Taiki. "Take this, will you?" He now has no weapons of any kind on his person. Except for his secret weapon, the bacon.
Taiki frowns as he takes the jacket, then shakes his head. "He's the ask questions type, but he can afford to be," he comments to Shinobu as he folds the vest over his off arm. The Genin doesn't say any more at the moment, but lets all the possible implications hang there in the air. In the meantime Shinobu continues to stand there and occasionally growl at the dog.
Kenichi sits down and harumphs for a moment before shaking his body. 'Yeah, I heard rumors brat,' the dog says to Taiki. 'We still can't find those other three, care to tell me what you did to them?' Taiki just shrugs as he stands there, not going for any of his weapons right now. Looking over to Atsuro he adds, 'I don't like him.'
"That's too bad," Atsuro says, "But if it's any consolation, you don't have to talk to him. Or Shinobu." He glances back at Taiki and Shinobu meaningfully. "Just me. I don't know if you like me, but I'm trying my best to be nice, so please help me out a little here, okay?" He tosses a strip of bacon to Kenichi. "A show of my good faith. Freshly made too. I bought it this morning and cooked it right before I left the house." He takes a small, non-threatening step towards the dog. "So, I think we both know what you're doing here, but why are you doing it? Did somebody send you?"
Taiki doesn't really say anything, but pulls out a kunai to clean his nails with. He's said his piece right now, and if Atsuro wants to try to butter up these sadistic aggressive dogs, far be it from him to offer any advice. At least that's what his posture says. Shinobu just starts to scratch the earth in front of him, absently making a few furrows in the ground, but otherwise seemingly ignoring the dog.
Kenichi sniffs the bacon, then ignores it. He looks at Atsuro and growls, 'I'm don't know what you're talking about. My partner let me go for a walk, so I'm going to do so. And even if I did know what you're talking about, why should I help you? I help you, it's helping that murdering fleebag over there. And helping him is the last thing I want to do."
"Come on now, Kenichi," Atsuro says, "It's true I'm trying to help him, but I'm also trying to help /you/. Let's say for a second that Taiki did kill them. That's bad, but isn't it also bad to send you out after him, knowing that he might kill you too? All I want to do is prevent any more needless suffering. Give me a hand here, Kenichi. I promise you won't regret it. You're a dog, you know that your senses are far, far more acute than mine could ever be. You must already know that I'm telling the truth." He gives a grin, half-friendly, half-pleading and slowly eats another strip of bacon.
Taiki frowns a bit and shakes his head. "Typical," he whispers to Shinobu. Shinobu gives him a sharp look and growls as if reminding him of Atsuro's glance. "No, Shinobu. On that comment I won't be quiet. These dogs are helping others endanger the lives of my family, and they have the gall to accuse me of murder without any proof? On the coincidence that they may or may not have been sent to monitor me? That's rich. I wonder if this… sheep humper ever thought about what would happen to me, or my family, with whatever they took back to their partners? I wonder if they ever even thought about the injuries I received after some of their reports. Tsche… No, of course not. I don't have the right to defend myself, or my parents." All of this was whispered, though those with senses like the Inuzuka, or ninken, would hear every word, and hear the disgust in his voice.
Kenichi is about to say something, but falls silent through Taiki's diatribe. As much as the dog did not want to admit it, the part about no evidence was indeed true. Then he considers Atsuro's words, and after a few moments asks, 'How can you help me? If I needed help, you or he would be the last ones that could help me, even if he could be guided to do so.'
Atsuro turns back to face Taiki for a moment. "There's no need to talk like that," Atsuro says, "Kenichi's just doing his job." He turns back to Kenichi. "Don't you like bacon?" he asks, "Well then again, it looks like you're in pretty good shape. Healthy living, eh?" He kneels down and looks into Kenichi's eyes. "What makes you so sure I can't help you? Do you even know about me, beyond what's in the file? I'm not talking about 'born the illegitimate son of blah blah blah, member of the Delta branch, specializes in kenjutsu, promoted to chuunin blah blah, whatever.' I think I can help you. The first thing you said when we met was that you wouldn't tell your partner if I let you go. But you didn't seem very scared of me either, so why did that offer come out so quickly…? See, I don't think /I'm/ the one who's got you trapped. What do you say to that?"
"He calls me a murderer, he gets an earful. End of story," Taiki says with a low growl for emphasis. Shinobu looks at his partner, and growls as well. Apparently he's going to back up his partner on that particular issue.
'I don't know what you are talking about,' Kenichi responds. He looks over toward Taiki for a moment, then says, 'You're right. I have no proof. You're fishy enough, but I have no proof.'
"Taiki." Atsuro turns and scowls, shaking his head a little. "Stop." He turns back to Kenichi. "Sorry about him. Okay, here's what I was thinking. I don't know if you noticed it yourself, but don't you think it's a bit strange that you'd just agree to let us off so easily? I don't doubt your loyalty to your partner, but I think maybe you have some doubts about this whole thing, Kenichi. Nobody wants to rock the boat, but you obviously thought I was up to something. If you'd lie so easily to your partner, over something they'd probably want to know, maybe you have some concerns of your own. I know you aren't dumb, Kenichi. You've been very reasonable with me. If you didn't think I was on to something, at least on some level, surely you would have behaved differently?"
Taiki shakes his head, leans Atsuro's vest on a nearby rock, then quietly motions for Shinobu to follow. After that's done, he starts to walk back up the path, fully intent upon leaving them there. He's done being the bait, and since he's not wanted for participation, he's leaving Atsuro to it. Shinobu whines for a moment, then huffs and starts to follow.
Kenichi watches this and says, 'Don't look now, your student is leaving.' The dog then sits down and says, 'He's probably fed up with your circular talking. I know I'm completely lost as to what exactly it is you want, myself.'
Atsuro looks back at Taiki. He didn't mean to make the boy angry, but Kenichi is proving a tough nut to crack even /without/ sniping from his student. He shakes his head. "All I want is for you to answer my questions, Kenichi. You've put up a lot of resistance, but I think you must want to answer them too, at least to some degree. Obviously you don't see me as an enemy, otherwise you wouldn't want to just sit down talk to me. Even if my dog is blocking the way." He holds a hand out to Kenichi. "Who is your partner? I know who you are, so you know I can find out who your partner is. You don't really want them to get wrapped up in all this, do you? Hell, I didn't."
As Taiki disappears Kenichi simply says, 'No, it's just pointless to try to fight my way out. But the odds are improving now the brat's gone. As far as why I gave my offer, the brat knows capturing me and letting me tell anyone is dangerous. What neither one of you know is whether or not I was lying in my offer. And your student is right to snap at me, man. If it were anyone else, his bad man to your good man would have been the only way to get me to say anything.' Kenichi looks up the trail for a moment and adds, 'I'm not sure if what he says about protecting family is true, I'm new to this. But I question why we are hounding a pup like this, even if it is that mongrel.'
"Well," says Atsuro, finally seeing a few cracks in the dog's armor. "Why don't I tell you a little bit? Certain people in the clan have been threatening his family. Saying they'd kill his parents and things like that. And it seems like they mean it. And Taiki himself has been beaten several times. And I don't mean a few light swats sort of thing. We're talking broken bones, medical emergency shit. I know you don't like him, but if you actually are wondering about what you just said, maybe you can see why I'd like your help?" He pauses. "And I wasn't lying when I said there was something for you in it. More than the bacon, I mean. I'm sure you'd rather not sit here and negotiate on it all day, but I can tell you that I'm able to protect you. Are you willing to answer a few questions now?"
Kenichi looks back up the trail where Taiki went. 'I can't sense lies in you. You smell of truth, and of experience. I must believe what you say is true. In that case, he is right to be angry and hate me. Very well, ask your questions.'
"Thank you," Atsuro says, smiling, "I knew you were a good person, Kenichi. I can always tell. You can have all the bacon, if you actually want it." He pushes up from the rock wall. "First, who gave the orders to watch Taiki? You don't have to tell me who your partner is if you'd rather keep them out of it, but this probably came from somebody way high up, right?" He gives Kenichi an opportunity to answer before continuing. "Second, how many other dogs are there watching Taiki? Is anyone else being watched?" Once again, he gives an opportunity to answer, then asks the question he's really here for. "Okay, last question. I don't know if you were going to, but the other dogs won't go up to the top of this mountain. Do you know why that is?"
Kenichi considers each question and in turn answers them when the gaps permit. 'My partner's elder brother, who happens to be on the man elder group. <OOC: no name for NPC yet>' The dog states. 'There are four of us, each from different parts of the clan.' He then falls silent and huffs at the last question. 'This area smells too strongly of masked outclan. We are not permitted to go near them. Why I do not know.'
"That's all I wanted to know." Atsuro nods slowly. "Okay, there's only one more thing I need to know. You won't tell anyone else about this? I'll let you leave whatever your answer is, but you can surely give me that much. Remember though, I can tell if you're lying too." He gestures for Taizen to move aside, then begins picking up his discarded equipment and putting it back on while he waits for Kenichi to answer.
'You and the mon… pup gave me a lot to think about. No, I won't tell anyone about this.' With that the dog leaves, apparently having told the truth.