Date: February 27, 2015
After the last trip to explore a village that had purported kidnappings had been nixed, thanks to trouble along the way, a small group is formed to continue the initial investigation. Thankfully with some new information the search is narrowed and some more children are rescued, but it only continues to point to larger and more difficult schemes lurking in dark places.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Youth Kidnapped Army - Investigation in the Land of Fire"
Land of Fire
It was early morning in Konoha and Hige had sent messages to Atsuro, Taizen, and Kenta the night before. A request, really. He requested them all for a mission that had previously been cut short due to some issues. Namely, the fact that they'd had to rescue some kids. Now though it was time to return to the original town to find out what they could about something that had begun troubling many nations, including their own. Kidnappings. It had become surprisingly abundant in some towns and worrisome because there had been no real indication yet of what was happening with the children.
Hige waits at the gates with Konsho, a faint frown on his face as he looks in the direction of the rising sun. Only the first few rays have begun peeking above the horizon at this point and the sky is beginning to light up in a brilliant display of color. Arms folded over his chest, the boy waits in silence with a small pack on his back to carry some extra food and water for the trip.
Kenta jogs up ready for action and with an uncharacteristically hard expression on his face. It's not even the somber expression that used to dominate his features all the time before Ikari and Atsuro cured him of some of his seriousness. Kenta looks like he's prepared to do murder in the name of a good cause. "Is Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai coming?" the young medic-nin asks as soon as he reaches Hige. He hooks his thumbs into the straights of the backpack that he always carries with him on missions. "I can't believe that children are getting kidnapped all over the place again. The pattern doesn't make Lady Feather's old pattern…" His brows draw together as he scowls darkly. "…but kidnapping children's something she's very good at. Were there birds involved?"
From down one street comes a loud yawn, and Atsuro walks up to the gate area with his arms stretched wide, Taizen walking along beside him. "Morning, gang," Atsuro says sleepily, "So what's all this again?" He pauses, "Oh, well. I mean, I know. But it's so early in the morning. Is waking up this early going to stop more kidnappings?" He seems to think that's the only excuse. Of course, if his mind weren't still suffering the effects of tiredness, he'd be far more determined about the whole thing, rather than simply having a vague idea that it's something he should do. "Good morning, everyone," says Taizen, "How should we proceed?"
"Yeah, they're both supposed to be coming hopefully. And no, no birds. This is something different I think." Hige replies as he turns his head to acknowledge Kenta with a nod. He's not pleased by it at all either. "Last time we were heading to this village we saved two kids from being kidnapped. They had some limited information for the village about it. There's no mention of anyone like Lady Feather involved. It seems like it's a much larger group with some evil plan here."
When SleepySuro and Taizen arrives the younger Inuzuka turns to face them and nods a greeting, letting his arms drop to his sides. "I didn't want to wait ojii. It's already been a few weeks since we saved the other kids and there just hasn't been time to go back to investigate. As it is it's going to take us pretty much all morning to get there going as fast as normal." He reaches up a hand to scratch the side of his nose as he silently considers. "Ojii is in charge, even though I requested the mission." He mutters the last part, sounding a little annoyed. He was happy to have them along but for something like this that he had already had a part in…well, it did annoy him a little. "So I guess whatever he says. We're supposed to go investigate the town, it's people, and see if there's any other kidnappings recently and if we can locate the kids if there has been."
Kenta bows deeply to Atsuro. He hasn't relaxed at all when he straightens up. "Lady Feather or no Lady Feather, we'd still need to be very thorough. Kidnapping children is a very serious business. We want to take down whoever's doing this as quickly as possible," he says in his somber voice. The young man fairly bounces on his heels as he glances down the round. "I agree that we need to hurry to the village. We can't be late again…" Not like how they ended up getting to the Temple of Embers too late. "Ummm… but you shouldn't worry -too- much, Hige. Atsuro-senpai will make sure that this investigation go the way that it should. He's not the Jounin Commander of Konoha for no reason."
"I think you're going to have to tell me what to do anyway," Atsuro tells Hige, rubbing his eyes, "I haven't handled any aspect of this mission. I don't know what town it is, or the circumstances of the kidnappings." Taizen helpfully suggests, "Maybe you could tell us the important details on the way there, Hige. It sounds as if you have some idea of what we should be doing already." Atsuro looks over at Kenta, "Yeah. Sure I will…" He pauses to yawn deeply, "Just as long as I get a chance to wake up properly. I sometimes think I am the Jounin Commander of Konoha for no reason though…"
Hige is somewhat amused by Kenta's readiness to go but it doesn't actually show thanks to the situation in general. Even Konsho seems unusually sullen. The teen nods to Atsuro at his words, "Yeah, I will…" he says, then trails off as his eyes flick back towards the Village and a small gathering there. Two teens and two preteens, two groups of siblings that are being watched by an older man. "Uh, one second." He mutters before going back to talk to the four. Some words are passed and Hige reaches out to ruffle the hair of the youngest boy before nodding to them all. Konsho goes with Hige and receives some pets as well. A wave, then the Inuzuka pair returns. "Uh…yeah, we should go." He says without explanation. And apparently without waiting as he pushes off to start traveling along the tree tops, Konsho following close behind.
"There's been rumors of kidnappings happening in different nations. When some of the Suna nin were visiting not long ago they told us about some kidnapping ring that they were hunting down. It seems they started becoming a lot more active recently and were difficult to pin down with most of their locations just being waypoints." Hige expliains as they go, keeping back with the others so they can hear him well enough while Konsho brings up the rear to keep an eye on things. "There's been reports that they've had similar problems in the Land of Lightning and Kumo has had to take care of some problems themselves with similar circumstances. This is only the second time there's been reports to Konoha about kidnappings but it meets the same criteria as the other two nations. It's probably the same people working over a wide area." He pauses before adding, "Two of those kids you just saw were the two we rescued last time we went to investigate. They said that there was one of those waypoints in the town we were going to and gave us an idea of where it was. We need to find out what we can from the place and any people that might be there." And maybe, just maybe, some kids could be saved.
Kenta launches from tree to tree as he follows close behind Hige and Konsho. "Ummm… a child trafficking ring that's working across several country? Something like that could take months or even years to handle. I was hoping that this would be a smaller situation, but this sounds almost as worrisome as the Silence situation." He wouldn't admit it, but something like this would have higher priority than even his vendetta against Lady Feather. "Something so big won't be composed of just a small group of individuals. There are probably groups working in many different locations, maybe secretly transferring children from one place to another. We can't just dig out one or two of the cells. The whole organization needs to be uprooted. Even crushing the head alone might not be enough." He lasts into a worried silence.
Atsuro and Taizen watch Hige speaking with the other group, for a moment, but then look away, figuring it's somewhat private. Atsuro just sighs and leans against the village wall. So tired, need to wake up. Fortunately, some brisk movement should get that done, so he's only too happy to jump into the trees and follow after Hige and Konsho to wherever they're leading the team.
"I was thinking that too," he agrees with Kenta, "Some of these groups are too decent— de-decentralized to eliminate completely." He slaps himself across the face. "You can only take them apart by bits and pieces. You can't just catch a single leader and watch the whole system come unglued. There's no one mastermind, so any subgroups can continue operating independently."
"As far as I've heard none of the children have been found yet once they left a waypoint, so I don't know what they're doing with them." That concerns Hige more than anything else so far, really. But he agrees with Kenta's assessment and gives a little nod. "Yeah, I have a feeling it's going to take a group effort but, from what I've heard so far, there's still only a little bit of information. Since this seems to be a new thing in the Land of Fire I'm kind of hoping that this place might have some more information." It's a sad thing to hope for but it's about all they really /have/ to hope for at this point in time. Hige glances back at Atsuro when the man slaps himself and he quirks a brow. "We need to stop at a lake for you to dive into there ojii?"
The trip does a good chunk of the morning even at top speed. Hige would want to push on through until they arrived but it would of course be Atsuro's decision if they should take a short break in the end. If they don't Hige would stop them about a mile from the town to break and go over what limited information he had. "Supposed to be a large barn like building on the north-western edge of the town. Not sure if people will still be there since he killed a lot of their people last time so we'll have to be watchful. If there isn't anyone there we're supposed to check inside and out for any clues on where they went and anything else we can find out about them." He pauses, then looks to Atsuro to see what he has to say since, again, he's the man in charge.
Kenta nods his head curtly. "It sounds like the job is mainly for Inuzuka noses and eyes. I'm just the backup medic in case something goes wrong." From the tone of Kenta's voice, he thinks it's pretty likely that something -will- go wrong. The medic-nin has been on enough missions by now to know that the worst case scenario is very often the most -likely- scenario. "I kind of hope that we'll manage to run into one of those kidnappers. That could tell us a lot more than any clues left behind can. Also, the more of them behind bars, the better. I don't like the thought that anyone who could do something so horrible is still wandering around free."
"In other words," says Atsuro, "This is more about rescuing the kids that have been abducted /this/ time, and less about shutting the whole operation down?" He actually sounds a little relieved by that idea. "That's good. I think I can handle something like that this early in the morning. Taking out the entire kidnapping ring would be a bit much. When that mission comes, I wouldn't complain if we left Konoha an hour or two later." He looks over to Kenta, "Even so, eyes and ears open. You'll notice seals and things that we won't."
Fortunately, he continues to wake up as they move over land. When they get to the outskirts of the village, he gives Hige a nod. We'll approach from whatever side has the most cover and keep our guards up so that we have an idea of whether or not someone's there by the time we've reached the barn. We'll decide what to do from there."
Hige looks to Kenta and gives the medic a smile, "Yeah, well, I feel a lot better when you're around Kenta. Like ojii said. Plus you know I tend to run into bad things." His gaze shifts to Atsuro then and he nods before pointing the way they're going. "Forest reaches right up to the town pretty much so we should be able to get a good view from there. No walls or anything. This far into the Land of Fire they don't really have much to worry about." With that done, and after a few little snacks to keep their energy up, Hige takes the lead again the rest of the way to the village. They take the long way around to approach from the north-west and Hige stops at the tree line, motioning for the others to join him as he looks down at the town.
From this vantage point it's pretty obvious which building is the one that was being discussed. A large building with large double-doors stood amongst the other smaller buildings. Most of the surrounding buildings were houses with a few shops mixed in as the town apparently didn't care enough to have certain things in certain areas like most smart towns did. While people wander around the building there doesn't seem to be anyone specifically coming or going from it and the only windows are so high set that it's impossible to see any movement from this vantage point.
Kenta stands on the branch of a tree with his torso pressed against the trunk as he peers out of the foliage towards the building. "A Hyuuga would be useful right now. It's hard to tell what's going on inside without actually going in," the young man whispers. He glances at Atsuro, since the oldest of the shinobi is the team leader for the mission. "Who long should we observe from here before we attempt to sneak in? It'll be easiest to do that when night falls, but that's a long wait. If there are people inside, they might be leaving through a secret passage right now." He furrows his brows with worry and leans away from the tree trunk a little. His eyes squint as he stares at the building, as if sheer force of will can make him develop the Byugakugan all of a sudden.
Sniffing the air, Atsuro and Taizen lean forward through the foliage and take a look at the barn. "Oh," says Atsuro, "I was expecting a really creepy barn. With guards. It looks more like this one is just something they've got by the town and that they want to stay inconspicuous." He looks around, glancing at Hige and Kenta. "Well, if you two can't see anything, I think we have to move and just hope for the best. Maybe walk up the wall there and go in through the top window — they won't be expecting us. I was hoping maybe we could get Kenta to grab an animal and scout, but it doesn't seem like there's anything that would be much help in this situation."
Hige and Konsho remain silent as they watch along with the rest of the group. He says nothing at first as they look at the barn, the boy pursing his lips thoughtfully. "Yeah, they said something about it being just some regular looking building. Hiding in plain sight." Hige says softly in response to Atsuro's words. He shakes his head at the mention of seeing something but then nods quickly as Atsuro talks about going in. He considers silently as he looks over the building. "Alright ojii…let's go then." He says and doesn't wait for anything further before silently dropping out of the tree and heading towards the building with all speed.
The direction of the building facing the forest is the one with the two doors, but they are shut securely. The window is indeed open and doesn't even contain glass. As the group nears the Inuzuka would pick up sounds of shuffling feet inside though it's hard to distinguish whether it's animal or human. The medic, however, might get a sense of a couple of small heartbeats inside next to a few larger ones.
Kenta jogs up the wall until he's close to the window. His jutsu picks up the heartbeats and biosignatures of several people, which makes his eyes narrow in speculation. He couldn't speak directly, so the young man creates a telepathic link to Atsuro to pass on the information. Then, he breaks the link and does it a few more times to send the same message to each of the other members of the team. <"There are several people inside. Some of larger, so they must be the kidnappers. They're sitting with a few smaller people, which are probably the children. I can't tell for sure from here. The echoes returned by my jutsu is too faint from the distance and the number of obstacles.">
"Okay," says Atsuro, "They might have their defense on the inside then. Keep an eye out for traps, everyone." Atsuro and Taizen dart across the open ground, moving swift and stealthy. Then they walk onto the wall and join the others by the window. <"How close are they to the windows?"> Atsuro thinks back to Kenta as he kneels down by the window. Since it's open, he tries just leaning forward slightly and sniffing to determine what's beyond, checking not only for signs of someone who could see them, but also any tripwires, seals or other signs of traps or alarms. But it depends on Kenta's answer as to whether or not they can actually enter safely.
Hige and Konsho's ears catch the sounds from inside but it's hard to say what it might be. As the pair climbs up they get the message from Kenta and consider silently before pausing just under the window. He crouches down there, which is kind of odd since he's crouching sideways, but it still works.
Atsuro's nose would pick up only five unique scents from inside the barn. From where Kenta was he would be able to see inside to where three children are tied to a post with two armed men hanging out nearby. There's no obvious traps set up near the window and no strange scents to indicate such things come to Atsuro. It just so happens that one of them yawns loudly and starts speaking just as the shinobi arrive. "How much longer are we going to have to wait? Shouldn't they be back by now? And just because the others didn't return last week doesn't mean something bad happened to them. Probably just took their money and ran."
"Well they decided to move this point anyways just to be safe. We could've done it sooner if you'd met your quota. Instead I had to wait for your stupid study to find these surveys and now we're stuck waiting for a guide."
"They better get here soon or we're going to run out of food. Have to stop feeding the little reviews."
Kenta silently starts to gesture and relay the information of how close their targets are to the window. He only has a link to Atsuro now, so hopefully the others could figure out what his gestures mean. When the young medic-nin hears the comments from the kidnappers, his hands stop moving and his face flushes with anger. He sucks in a deep breath and moves away from the window. There's no time for pantomiming and switching telepathic links from person to person. They have to come up with a plan together, quickly. "The children are too close to their kidnappers. If we attack without planning things out, we might hit them accidentally. Maybe I can sneak up to them with my cloaking seal and untie them. You guys can try to draw the men towards you and take them down."
For a moment, Atsuro wonders about pretending to be whoever the men inside are waiting for, but it seems like too much of a longshot. Instead, he gives Kenta a nod. <"Let me know when the best time to move in and attack is. Try not to let the kidnappers catch you untying them. Hige, Konsho, and I will attack them from the other side of you. If they move in your direction, you'll have to attack, but I'll move Tai to your side so he can help out."> He looks into Hige's eyes and whispers, "You two stay with me. We're going to try and pin them down from either side."
Hige hears what's said from inside as well, causing a soft, low growl to erupt from his throat. He doesn't wait to make any plan even as Kenta tries to and he simply drops off of the wall to stand in front of the door. When Atsuro turns around to talk to him Hige is already gone, making the whole idea fruitless. Again we get to see an angry Hige in action. Might have to work on that whole 'following rules' thing later. Without hesitation he raises a closed hand to pound on it to alert those inside to the presence of another.
The two man on the inside look towards the door and, whether they're just that stupid or perhaps that tired, they both move towards the door with a look of relief. "About inspection time they got here." The one says while the other agrees and reaches to unlock the door from the inside. "No probe. And here for a minute I thought they were going to leave us." Needless to say when the door opens the two man stand there with some surprise at the small boy and dog waiting for them. "Um…new recruit?"
Kenta starts to nod, but Hige is already banging on the door. The young man lets out a loud sigh. He ponders for a moment and ends up pulling out a small tag anyway. Kenta concentrates on it, causing the seals on the tag to glow. After a moment, his form disappears from sight. The invisible medic-nin lightly runs up the wall again to slip through the window. He lands carefully to reduce the amount of noise he creates that his cloaking seal might not be able to completely hide. At least Hige standing at the door means that the kidnappers are distracted. Kenta quickly races towards the bound children to inspect their state of health. He also warns them to be quiet before he starts to undo their bindings, although he has to place his lips next to their ears to be heard through his barrier.
"Hi— quiz!" Atsuro exhales in irritation as Hige decides to just forego all planning. "That little — guh!" He nods to Kenta as he sees what he's doing. <"We'll head in after you and be ready to get between them and the kids. Good luck."> He nods to Taizen and the two move in through the window, still sticking themselves to the wall with chakra, then walking up to the roof. They stay on the ceiling of the barn, but they're prepared to drop in just the right position to put them between Kenta and the two men at the door. They're just waiting until the enemy either notices what Kenta's doing, or put Hige under too much of a threat.
Hige looks quite mad enough to tear the two men to shreds at this point. When one of them reaches for the young Inuzuka he comes back minus a hand as Hige's lightning imbued claws become a little bloody. He backs up in surprise while his body realizes that death is near and he turns back to run towards the children pulling out a sword in his intent to use them as a shield.
The children themselves, all aged from eight to ten, seem to be in decent shape. They're a little malnourished, tired, and stink from who knows how many days without any kind of proper washing. They're all incredibly frightened. When the invisible man whispers to them they are just more scared but they stay quiet because quiet means they might live. That is, until the one man starts running for them. At that point the youngest one screams loudly while another starts to cry.
Kenta saws the bindings apart with one of his kunai. He allows the power in his cloaking seal to fade when the uninjured man starts running towards the children and places himself in front of them. "Stay behind me and hold on to each other," the medic-nin tells them in an urgent voice. "I'll won't let them hurt you. Neither with Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai. They're heroes of the Leaf." Kenta plants his feet and makes several hand seals. Medical chakra emanates from his hands as he holds them apart from his body, prepared to slice the tendons and muscles of any enemy that manages to reach him.
That's Atsuro's cue. "Halt." He and Taizen drop down from the ceiling, flipping in midair to land in a crouch before the man who's running back to get at the children. Taizen hands Atsuro a sword, who immediately unsheathes it and makes a lightning quick at the man's own sword, attempting to knock it right out of his hands. He points the sword at the man while Taizen turns his head back, drawing another sword to hold in his jaws. "You're both under arrest," says Atsuro, "If you don't surrender peacefully, we'll use brutal force."
Okay, well at least one of them is under arrest at least. The man loses his sword quite easily as he's no more than a sellsword and has some very basic training, certainly nothing to stand up against the Jounin. He turns to try and run back out the front door but Hige is there, eyes more feral than usual with the shredded body of the other man at his feet. The man considers his options in a split second and puts his hands up before facing Atsuro. Apparently he'll take imprisonment over death. "I surrender!"
The children all huddle behind Atsuro, holding hands to stay together though one of them at least was still crying. One of them holds onto the back of Kenta's shirt as well, unwilling to let go what might be there only chance of getting out of there. The small fist isn't very strong but it sure doesn't seem to be prepared to let go anytime soon.
When the man surrenders Hige's eyes narrow slightly, but he doesn't do anything more than he already has. He'll let Atsuro take at least one alive, apparently. All that's left now is to search the building for anything that might lead to the larger group or at least whatever their plan is.
"I'm glad you saw reason." Atsuro sheathes the sword and hands it back to Taizen, who keeps his own sword ready, just in case. He pulls a length of wire out of his jounin vest and orders the man to get on the ground, then begins tying him up. "Hige," he says, "Take a look around here. See if you can find any documents, notes, letters, or anything that could help us find out more about the larger kidnapping ring." Then he nods to the children, "You'll be all right," he says. Giving a nod to Kenta, he says, "Stay with him, and he'll take care of you. We'll get you out of here as soon as we can, I promise."
Hige wipes a little bloodspatter off of his chin with a sleeve before he nods to Atsuro. The Inuzuka boy and his pup split off to explore the barn with eyes and noses. While they do the children seem to calm down some, now that the men who had captured them are subdued…one permanently. They do stick very close to Kenta though since the smaller medic was much less daunting than the tall Inuzuka and his sword wielding dog.
The man himself doesn't put up any kind of struggle as Atsuro ties him up. He doesn't offer anything however and remains silent now that he's been taken prisoner. Atsuro would find in his pouches two things of interest. One a map that seemed surprisingly bare but had a strange scent to it. The other was a note with a bunch of random numbers in two columns, some crossed off. Hige and Konsho find a mostly burned scrap of paper in what apparently was the fire pit for the barn with some writing on it. After looking at it he folded the remnants carefully and pocketed them to look over later. Once the exploration was complete Hige returns to Atsuro and nods. "Found part of a letter but nothing else. Seems like they really were leaving this place."
Atsuro gives Hige a nod. "Yep," he says, "But we might have enough to work with. We can examine what we've found once we et back to safety. For the moment, let's see about the kids. We can calm them down and maybe they'll be able to tell us how to return them to their families — maybe they'll even be able to tell us something about the kidnappers." He glances to the man he's tied up, "And don't think I've forgotten about you. I think you can tell us something too…" He nods to Hige, then Kenta, "Let's get out of this barn. It doesn't have anything else for us now."
Hige nods his agreement at that and goes to crouch next to the youngest kid, Konsho joining him. He talks to the group quietly before nodding to the door after exchanging a few words with them. The good things about being a kid himself is that it was easier to get little ones to trust you. Together the group of kids, with Kenta and Hige, do make their way outside. The younger Inuzuka pauses next to Atsuro and looks up at the man, the feral look mostly gone and replaced with a saddened one. "They're all orphans." He says quietly, then keeps walking out of the barn with Konsho.