Journey to the Land of Fire


Arika, Jiro

Date: January 10, 2015


Arika and Jiro, accompanied by Ping (NPC), start to journey to the Land of Fire. The first few days help Jiro confront many of his fears. Then they begin to leave the safety of home, eventually encountering an old friend. But things aren't as they seem.

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

"The Shadow Man - Journey to the Land of Fire"

Land of Wind

Itami had given the mission, and Arika had decided to drag Jiro. Ping is with them too, of course, as Genin and students shouldn't leave the village unsupervised. Ping leads the way through the desert, eventually coming to a place that Jiro might recognize: his home. The man looks to the boy, saying, "Jiro-san, I hope you're ready to tell the truth?" Arika looks a bit confused, and she scrambles up to perch on Ping's shoulders. The weather: a bit chilly at 50 degrees.

Jiro hadn't really expected to go on the missions that Itami had talked about but after Arika had dragged him and no one had said no the boy had packed his things to go with. He was down for some exploring! During this first portion the boy trailed along, doing his best to keep pace as they go, and for a long time he hadn't really been paying attention to their surroundings. It wasn't until they were nearly to his house that an uneasy feeling came over him and then they were there. Jiro was tense, concerned even and he looked from the house to Ping, "I…I dunno. What if…they did it on purpose?" That's his concern, made even more painful if only by memory at this point of the last day or two.

Arika hasn't really had a chance to talk with Jiro about things yet. His family, her abilities… All are sort of swept under the rug at the moment. But the girl's blue-green eyes show obvious concern for Jiro. "You'll be fine, Jiro-kun! Ping-San is here and can help too, you know!" The girl nods a bit, seeming confident that everything will work out.

"What am I supposed ta tell 'em?" The boy asks quietly, eyes looking from Arika back to Ping again. He's never really like this, all quiet and…not scared, but definitely worried about what could possibly happen. Do they know he's coming? What has Ping already told them? Worrying about it is starting to give him a small headache.

"Just tell them the truth. Even if you're scared," Ping tells the boy, knocking on the door, then. They might as well get this over with, right. Arika hops down from her perch to give Jiro a quick hug. "It'll be fine. Promise!" With that, she falls silent, looking serious for once.

Jiro still doesn't seem all that sure but when Ping knocks on the door he can't really do anything about it. The boy stiffens up a bit as the door opens to reveal a middle-aged woman wearing an apron that is spattered with flour and other cooking ingredients. She wipes her hands on the apron as he looks out the door, noticing Ping first of course. "Can I help you?" The lady asks in a kind voice as her eyes go from Ping, to the girl next to him, to…wait? "Jiro?" Her face brightens and she swoops up to hug the boy tightly, startling him out of his own thoughts. "Jonha, Ishita, Jiro is here!" She calls into the house causing both an older man and a boy a few years older than Jiro to appear. Both of them hug the boy too and Jiro, for once, actually looks a little embarassed instead of scared.
"Oh where are my manners you all must have been walking for a while please come in! I just finished baking some bread and lunch is almost ready. I can put some more together for you all." She ohs again and nods, "Ah yes, I am Amaro Shina. This is my husband, Jonha, and our other son Ishita." With that they stand aside to let the travelers in.

Arika smiles brightly. They seem like a nice family. Amaro… Is that a special name? She looks to Jiro thoughtfully while Ping offers a small now. "Morai Hideki. But many know me as 'Ping'. And the one next to me is Ikitara Arika." He nudges Jiro inside if he isn't already before walking in himself, Arika trailing along behind him. She lets Ping do the talking. "Shina-san, I believe Jiro-san wished to tell you all something, but it can wait until after a meal, if you insist," he comments amiably.

Jiro does go in, taking off his shows before stepping up into the actual house itself. It's not the largest and most splenderous of things but for two ex-shinobi and their three (or currently two) children residing there it's enough. Just humble is all. Once everyone is inside Shina closes the door and follows after. Upon hearing what Ping has to say the woman looks a little concerned and the father even looks worried. Laying a gentle hand on Ishita's back, Shina says softly to him, "Can you go and check the stew and add in some extra please dear." The boy, likely around 10 or 11 years of age, nods and makes his way into the little kitchen area while Shina motions towards the kitchen table, "Please sit." She offers while Jonha brings in a couple of extra chairs. "If you don't mind our youngest will be home soon. If something is wrong I'd like to hear it before she arrives."

Ping shakes his head. "Nothing wrong, per se. I believe Jiro-san has been getting into some mischief due to his living conditions, but Sunagakure is working to fix that. If you don't mind, I would like for the boy to stay with myself and Ikitara-san while he trains to be a Shinobi." He pauses so Shina can collect all that information and file it. "Jiro-kun and I train together a lot!" Arika pipes in. "Like I help him with things that I learned and then we go and have fun."

When Ping starts to explain Jiro sits down quietly and stares at the table. Jonha and Shina both look surprised as they take their own seats, looking at eachother worriedly before they both look to Jiro at practically the same time. "We just received a letter from Yoppa-san a few days ago saying everything was going well," his mother says, though the fact that Jiro is here means that the letter probably wasn't true. She looks back over to Ping then and asks, "What was it that happened?" Then back to Jiro, "What kind of mischief?"
Jonha takes one of her hands gently to keep her from overwhelming the guests with questions before he looks to Jiro and asks softly, "What happened?"
And so the dreaded moment has come. Jiro swallows noisily as he looks to Ping and Arika first, then to his parents. "They were mean. They didn' feed me, an' they made me sleep where there wasn' a roof, an' they made me do all'a their errands an' steal stuff. I had ta steal more just ta eat." Both parents look terrified by what they're hearing and Shina immediately gets out of her chair to go to Jiro and hug him.
Oh and Ishita? He's still in the kitchen but he's hanging by the door listening because that's what kids do.

Arika is only partly paying attention to everything, preferring instead to look around the room. Ping seems to be calm, though, as he waits for Jiro to finish his explanation. "Now then, I wanted to get your permission to let him stay with us. And then I wanted to see if it would be permissible for me to take him to Konoha with us, as we don't want to leave him alone in the apartment. I can assure you he'll be in good hands, so there's no need to worry."

When Ping starts to explain Jiro sits down quietly and stares at the table. Jonha and Shina both look surprised as they take their own seats, looking at eachother worriedly before they both look to Jiro at practically the same time. "We just received a letter from Yoppa-san a few days ago saying everything was going well," his mother says, though the fact that Jiro is here means that the letter probably wasn't true. She looks back over to Ping then and asks, "What was it that happened?" Then back to Jiro, "What kind of mischief?"
Jonha takes one of her hands gently to keep her from overwhelming the guests with questions before he looks to Jiro and asks softly, "What happened?"
And so the dreaded moment has come. Jiro swallows noisily as he looks to Ping and Arika first, then to his parents. "They were mean. They didn' feed me, an' they made me sleep where there wasn' a roof, an' they made me do all'a their errands an' steal stuff. I had ta steal more just ta eat." Both parents look terrified by what they're hearing and Shina immediately gets out of her chair to go to Jiro and hug him.
Oh and Ishita? He's still in the kitchen but he's hanging by the door listening because that's what kids do.

Arika is only partly paying attention to everything, preferring instead to look around the room. Ping seems to be calm, though, as he waits for Jiro to finish his explanation. "Now then, I wanted to get your permission to let him stay with us. And then I wanted to see if it would be permissible for me to take him to Konoha with us, as we don't want to leave him alone in the apartment. I can assure you he'll be in good hands, so there's no need to worry."

Jiro is surprised by the hug and even more surprised to see his mother…crying? "I'm sorry Jiro. We thought we were sending you somewhere safe and nobody told us any differently." The boy wraps his arms around his mother out of habit and just nods a bit, not saying anything. He's not sure what to say. "I have half a mind to have you just come back home. But, what do you want to do Jiro? Would you be okay living with with Morai-san and Ikitara-san?"
"Yea'," Jiro replies to the question almost immediately. "They're really nice, and they've been feeding me. An'…yeah, Arika-chan has been helpin' me learn some'a the academy stuff." The two pareents exchange one of those looks that parents do that conveys a whole conversation in an instant.
"Okay," this time it's Jonha who speaks up. "If you want to continue going to the Academy you can, but you have to promise that if anything happens you'll send us a letter, okay?" The man looks back to Ping and gives him a grateful smile, "We would be hnored if you would watch after him Morai-san. And we will send you the money we were sending the other to help pay for his needs. Of course if there's anything else we can do please don't hesitate to send a bird."

Ping smiles and nods. "Of course. Thank you very much." He decides to take the money for now, but plans to use it for something else… Like saving it up to give back later. Or just using it to help Jiro get more clothes and the like. "YAY!!!" Arika exclaims, hugging Jiro, then his parents. The girl bounces happily in her spot and she spins around as well. Ping shakes his head, but is amused by her reaction.

Another hug, this one even more unexpected! Jiro blinks at Arika when she hugs him, looking confused for a second but she's already moved on and the parents, at least, have sense enough to know what's coming and hug her back. Shina stands back up and dabs at her eyes with her apron, "Forgive me for being so emotional." She says quickly but Jonha just smiles faintly like it's actually not an uncommon occurance.
"You know," Jonha says then, "if you're going to Konoha and then back to the Academy maybe it's time we showed you something." Shina looks at her husband with some surprise, but then nods her agreement. Jiro just look even more confused. "Come on outside and Morai-san, Ikitara-san, you are both welcome to come watch as well." With that the man disappears into a room in the house to appear moments later with two lengths of cloth, handing one to his wife before leading them towards the door and holding it open for everyone. Jiro could only follow, glancing at Ping and Arika since even he doesn't know where this is going.

Arika and Ping go to follow the parents, though Arika looks a lot more confused than the Jounin. When they bring out the cloth, Arika just looks at them like 'that's just cloth' while Ping gets a small smile. It seems he knows.

Jiro's parents have shed their normal house ware for something that is a little more free-moving, which means no more apron. Shina takes one of the pieces of cloth and steps away a little with Jonha crouches next to the boy. "Alright son, I know you were curious about us giving you this," he tugs at the fire red cloth Jiro uses as a sash around his waist, "when you left. It was for a reason. See, the Amaro family has long been able to use special cloth like this not only as something to wear, but something to use." The man stands and walks away a few steps and with surprising speed for ex-shinobi he two charge eachother, the cloth flowing in their arms until just before they connect at which time they harden like steel and connect, neither of them giving in the slightest." Jiro's mouth drops open as he watches, then he gives a look back to Arika. One of 'You seein' this'?

Arika watches both Shinobi with a tilt of her head, curious to see the demonstration. Whne they charge, her eyes go wide, and they clash, and the metal rings out. Her eyes widen even more, and her own expression matches Jiro's when she looks to the boy. Then she grins. "Someday you can do that, Jiro-kun." And he had someone to teach him and no one to interfere with his abilities (Gyuki…)

Jiro turns his attention back to his parents as they demonstrate a few more moves, sometimes the cloth dancing in the air and other times being as still and strong as a blade. When they finish they motion for Jiro to come over and the boy does, albeit a little hesitantly. He removes his sash and looks at it curiously as his parents explain how to work with the cloth to make it sharp. "Learning the chakra control can be easy, but learning the cloth can be hard. It will take a lot of practice Jiro," his father informs him. Jiro gives the cloth a little flick before narrowing his eyes slightly to focus his chakra into the cloth and it does, indeed, harden for a moment before it floats back down again.

Arika watches as Jiro's parents and the boy start to use these abilities. It makes her a bit jealous that he still has a family. Can still use his clan's skills. But she's also happy. Because everything is working out. Because Jiro can learn his skills. She smiles to the Amaro and reclaims a perch on Ping. "Should we go soon? Or stay the night?" she wonders aloud.

Now that Jiro can focus the chakra right it really becomes a matter of using it correctly. That's going to be the part that takes time, but his parents seem pleased with how well he can use his chakra in general. "I guess they have good teachers in the Village. That's good to know." His mother says before she catches Arika's words. The woman smiles as she looks towards the watching pair, "You are all welcome to stay for dinner and the night if you wish. We can make up a few more places." Jiro turns to look back at Ping and Arika as he ties the sash back around his waste, wondering what they'll want to do. He…actually looks like he wants to stay but he's also on their timetable not his own.

"Let's stay for the night. While I want to get to Konoha quickly, it does no good to arrive exhausted. Best to take advantage of a house and warm food when we can." He looks between Jiro and Arika. "You both need warmer clothes…" He sighs, then, even as Arika scrambles off to explore the house.

Jiro runs off after Arika, snagging her and this time dragging /her/ along, "Come'n look at my room!" He actually has something to show off, that's a new one for him. Granted it's nothing all that interesting, but he does have some toys and such.
When the kids run off Shina goes back to make sure that dinner is ready and Jonha walks over to Ping, offering a polite nod to the man. "I seem to vaguely recall a Morai Hideki during the war, a Chuunin. Very skilled." The man muses with a faint smile before looking back to the house, "So tell me, what happened to the people he was staying with? Is it something I need to go take care of?" He may not be a shinobi anymore, but that does not mean that his skills are gone.

Ping offers a wry smile. "If he was skilled in seals, then he might be someone you are talking to. Somehow my nickname's been sticking more than my real name, though, so feel free to call me Ping, as I said earlier." He pauses to make sure Arika and Jiro are out of earshot. "As Jiro-san said, he was being mistreated to the point where he had to steal to survive. The man had threatened to beat him, from what I could tell, if Jiro-san didn't do something or if he attempted to reveal their mistreatment. The Councilwoman, Watanabe Itami, is working on the case, so there should be little issue."

Jonha watches the house as it becomes a flurry of activity, what with Jiro back for the night and the guests. The man smiles faintly in rememberance of something. A small nod is given at Ping's words, "Good to hear it. I wish we would've known but we weren't planning on going to the village for another few months. Yoppa-san wasn't the best shinobi but he was a good person when I knew him. I thought my boy would be safe there." His eyes turn back to meet Pings then. "I am in your debt Ping-san."

Ping shakes his head lightly. "It's no issue, Jonha-san. I was only wanting to help my ward. She seems to value your son very highly as a friend. He's one of the few her age that actually accept her, too. The other kids of her class tend to resent her because she graduated so early, and they always feel off around her."

"Yes that was another thing I was going to ask you about. Your ward?" The simple word is full of all the questions but it's spoken in a way where if Ping doesn't want to say anything the man is in no way pressuring him. Jiro's parents are both very smart, as is Jiro even if it doesn't show overly much. But based on the seal master having a ward…he suspects, which easily puts him as a Jounin during the last war.

"She is no threat, fortunately. Just don't make her upset or angry and everything will be fine," Ping says. He sees the suspicion in the other man's eyes, and he knows that the Amaro technically knows. "If Jiro-san asks, I will attempt to deflect the questions. It is a matter of importance that you do the same. Ikitara-san should tell who she wishes, though."

"Of course Ping-san. I'm glad you're the one they have watching over her and I'm more than comfortable having my son in her company if you believe it's okay." Shina's head peeks back out then and she motions for the men to come in. "Ah, I believe dinner is about to be served." He says before he leads the way back to the entrance.

The Next Day

After relaxing at Jiro's house and getting a good night's rest and an awesome meal, the trio of Ping, Arika, and Jiro set off once again. First in the trail is trying to trek across the desert so they can get to the Land of Fire. Fortunately, the weather is cooler than usual with the onset of winter. It only gets colder as they continue towards the north, so they would have to wrap their cloaks a bit tighter. Arika can't help but complain of the growing cold. "Ping-san, did you pack extra clothes?" she whines, clinging to Jiro to try and stay warm… Even though it's a mere 55 degrees.

Jiro is a bit different after that trip home, not quite so closed in as he sometimes was and a little less offputting…at least for the moment. With some of the kids deeper fears shown to be nothing but in his mind there's more of a peace about him. "Yer cold already?" Jiro says with a grin at Arika, "My parents said it snows'a lot there. Yer really gonna be cold." But at the same time he pulls off his backpack and rummages around in it. Since they're pretty much the same size the extra coat his parents gave him would fit Arika and the boy has been a lot colder in the past so he doesn't mind it so much. "Here." He says when he finds it, offering the coat over.

Arika blinks a bit and takes the offered coat, slipping it on over her current clothes, which are obviously not suited for winter. Ping sighs briefly. He hadn't expected that Arika would need something warm so soon. She wasn't supposed to leave the village! But yet, they were to go talk to the people in Konoha. … Hopefully nothing goes wrong on the trip there. "Keep an eye out, you two," he warns. "There are a lot of threats out there, and we're in enemy territory once we cross the border."

Jiro nods once Arika puts the coat on, sense it fits and all. "You c'n keep it. I dun really need it." Says the one who really doesn't know what 'cold' is yet, only what he thinks is cold. He might be fighting her for the coat for long…but probably not. He'd just live being cold. When Ping speaks the boy nods a bit before looking back ahead. He…doesn't really know what to look for, honestly, but he'll keep an eye out as best as he knows how. It's different doing this and not deciding where to get your food from today. A definite change. Really with Ping with them do they have to be /that/ worried?

Arika continues on, nodding to Ping's instructions. He looks around slowly, but doesn't see anything of note. Arika looks a bit warmer now, and she's happy. "What's the worst that could happen..?" she then wonders, a flashback to her kidnapping slipping into her mind and making her shiver from fear. ~Grow up…~ grumbles that voice. "D'you think there'll be bandits?"

Jiro is too busy /trying/ to look ahead and keep an eye out for things, although to him it all looks pretty dang normal. Then again he's never been this far out before and it's not exactly the time as near the village. "It's 'kay, I'll protect ya." Jiro answers Arika whether she wanted such an answer or not, giving her a toothy grin before looking down the road again. Of course Jiro is the weakest of them all but he is always going to try and protect Arika because…she's a friend. And she accepts him and is nice to him. And at his age that's really all that matters for him.

As they walk along, Arika follows after Ping, literally following in his footsteps. Or trying. She's tiny, so she's making a sort of game to try and keep up. Jiro is tugged into the game as well, so they hop along while Ping simply walks normally. Whether or not Jiro actually decides to join, he ends up stepping into a snake nest! The snakes start to swarm him, curling around his legs and biting at him.

Jiro isn't really one to hop along normally but…well, if Arika drags you then you just kind of go with it. The boy follows her example and skips along, his already poor attention on their surroundings faultering enough for him to step right into the snake nest. The kid lets out a squeaky yelp of surprise as it trips him up and when the snakes start coming he rolls to the side, then backwards onto his feet, then finally jumps a little ways away to avoid the snakes. "Sorry!" He tells the snakes as if that would help. He watches them but isn't sure what to do so he slowly backs away. He's not going to try and kill snakes…

The snakes hiss at Jiro, but they don't attack any more. His flailing about had made them not want to deal with him. They retreat back to their den and seem to calm down. Arika looks back to see them disappear and she hmm… "You should be more careful, Jiro-kun!" She nods a bit, then goes back to hopping along without a care in the world. As if that was entirely Jiro's fault…. Ping just chuckles a bit at Arika's antics, saying, "At least you didn't get bitten, Amaro-san." They continue on, though, not taking a break for another few hours to get ahead. "We'll take a break for lunch soon, so try and keep up." What's Ping's definition of soon??

Jiro looks towards Arika and scrunches his face at the girl as he turns to run towards her. When he gets close the boy tries to poke her in the side before running past her. No more skipping, it's time to do some running. It doesn't help that he's not sure where they're going but it's this general direction. The boy turns around after running a little ahead, walking backwards as he sees if the others are being slow or not.

Arika peers at Jiro, squeaking when her sides are poked. "No fair, Jiro-kun!" she calls, dashing after him, and then ahead of him. Ping sighs. "Hey, you two, make sure you follow the path!" he warns, keeping a close eye on them as they chase each other. He shakes his head, lengthening his stride to keep up with the younger ones.

Jiro blinks as Arika speeds past him and he starts running after her again with a grin. His chances of catching her all out are fairly limited but that doesn't mean he won't try, even pushing himself a little harder than he should to try and reach out and tickle her in the side. Because he's evil like that. He's honestly not really paying attention to where they're going or if Ping can see them. His main priority is tickling that girl!

With all the running around, the kids are likely going to stir up trouble. And this time, the trouble is bandits! They come out of the bushes, two of them, and one snatches up Arika while the other holds a knife at Jiro. "Give us all your money!" barks one while the other tries to deal with a struggling Arika who is apparently quite ruthless when she can't move. The girl is kicking, biting, and wriggling in her captor's grip. Strangely, Ping is nowhere to be found.

They should probably have been more observant but, well, they /are/ still kids. Jiro stops immediately when he sees the bandits pick up Arika and his eyes widen. Wait, they're holding up an eight year old? "I dun have much, but 'ere…" the kid says, going through the effort of untying his sash to make out like his money is under there. This probably isn't the best time to try and untested theory or anything but…well, he doesn't have much option either. "Let 'er go." He adds as he holds up a few coins towards the man, eye flicking over to Arika as he does so, the boy chewing his cheek nervously. Where /is/ Ping? He doesn't look behind him…maybe he's being sneaky or something.

Arika continues to flail around, eventually managing to land a hit on the bandit holding her. She, perhaps mistakenly, kicks him between the legs, which is not the most pleasant place to get injured. He groans and collapses, and Arika promptly hops out of his grip. "Jiro-kun, don't give them your money!" she huffs, focusing her chakra. The man that's facing Jiro just stares at the coins. "Those'er just coppers, kid. Don't you have any /gold/?" What kid would have gold? But hey, these kids could be shinobi in disguise, yeah? It's happened… In his dreams. Then the man hears his partner go down, and he turns to Arika. "What'd you do?!?!" He then proceeds to do a sweeping kick to try and knock both kids off their feet.

Jiro sees Arika get loose and once she's free he closes his hands. Hey, it's not much to some, but it's a lot to him! The money goes back away just as the man kicks, causing Jiro to jump back a little, landing in a crouch to push himself forward once more. Oh please let this work! He flicks the cloth up and tries to throw some chakra into it but it's not enough and doesn't solidify, and so instead the boy ends up just bowling towards the man. Hey he might knock him over! Or just bounce off…or just, you know, miss completely.

The bandit facing off against Jiro lets out a loud *OOF* as air leaves his lungs, Jiro tackling him right in the mid-section. He stumbles back, and the other one recovers. They're a bit hard pressed to believe /both/ of the kids are beating them up, but Arika and Jiro have pretty solid hits in. Arika was able to avoid the kick with a clone so it would simply pass through her. "If you don't go away, we'll beat you up!" Arika warns. Of course, it's a nine year old speaking, so they can't help but guffaw at the words.
"S-sure you are kid," laughs one. The other just can't even speak he's laughing so hard. This makes Arika angry and she makes handseals, sending two gusts of wind at the Bandits. "Jiro-kun, attack now!" she exclaims, hoping the wind will knock the enemies off-balance.

Jiro jumps back after he connects, the boy making sure that the men aren't close to Arika at all. The cloth is held between both of his hands as the boy stares at the pair of bandits, eyes narrowed slightly. Calculatingly. At Arika's words he doesn't hesitate, drawing out a kunai and flinging it at the furthest man while he dashes at the second, focusing as hard as he can as he flashes the cloth up. But he knows right away it's not going to help him in any way besides maybe be an additional distraction and so as he nears he pulls out another kunai as he crashes towards the man again, aiming right for his belly.

The bandits get hit by a gust of wind that sends them teetering back, and then they both get struck in the chest by the kunai. It's not a large wound, but it's deep and quite dead center. They fall down, not dead, but not inclined to move. Ping appears, then, saying, "Excellent job, you two. Now, let's continue on. We've wasted enough time with these fools." Both Jiro and Arika get a small hair-ruffle, which makes the latter squeak and huff indignantly, the girl attempting to fix her hair.

Once Jiro makes that contact with his kunai he pulls the blade out and jumps back, watching the bandits fall. He watches them for a brief moment when Ping suddenly appears and he ducks his head at the ruffle before turning to give the man a semi-glare. Where the heck was he? Good thing Arika is okay or Jiro would…be mad! Yeah! The boy puts the kunai away, leaving the other one he'd thrown in the man as he gives them both another little look before following after Ping and Arika, tugging at his backpack straps to get them re-aligned. "Where were you?" He asks Ping, looking a little pouty.

"I was just wanting to see how you would handle it," Ping stated simply. Actually, he was taking care of some of the nastier bandits up ahead, but no one wants to see NPCs fight… "You guys did fine, though. Amaro-san, practice with your cloth while we move. Ikitara-san, try not to rush ahead all the time," he instructs. Arika huffs, but nods, practicing with her Shadow Clone for the time being. Walking and focusing on building clones is hard, so she has to try several times before a clone actually appears solidly, and even then, it disappears in a few short minutes.

Jiro watches Ping for another few moments but finally just shrugs a little. Well, they did okay. Neither of them were hurt so there was that. The boy let out a soft sigh as he looked down at the cloth in his hands before falling back a little behind the others to practice where he's not going to accidently stab someone. Now that he doesn't have to worry about other things he can put just the right amount of chakra in to make it solid and sharp. Since he can do that the boy starts flicking the cloth around a little, trying to imitate what he'd seen his parents do before but it's a lot harder to get cloth to do what you want then you might think. Especially since there's weird things to worry about. Like wind. In fact after a particular gust he nearly stabs /himself/, but manages to drop the chakra in time. Whew!

The trio continue along their journey, eventually stopping just a few miles from the border of the Land of Wind and the Land of Fire. Ping gets out the food Jiro's mom had cooked for them for their journey and they have a sort of picnic in the desert before they continue on. "It's going to get colder, you two. I managed to buy extra clothes for us all, specifically you two. I think you have yet to be out of Suna, so you don't understand how cold it gets." With that warning in mind, he lets them be and just eats the food.

Jiro digs into the food with his usual gusto, apparently even receiving regular meals he's going to eat like it might be his last for a while. Maybe it's just habit. At the mention of it getting colder the boy just shrugs a little, "I'll be 'kay," he states around a mouthful of rice before he swallows. Sure he gave up his jacket already, but how much colder can it really get? The boy is watching around them even as they eat since after the run in earlier in the day you just can't be too sure right? And it was his bad for not spotting those guys earlier…he should be paying attention, yep.

Arika noms her food happily, glad for the break to rest and recover. The desert is sometimes hard to trek across with the shifting sands. Ping continues to tell them, in his most boring lecture voice, "We'll be traveling until we reach the border. Once we get there, we'll stop and make camp. Then we'll continue on through the forests and take a boat to get to Konoha. We'll have to walk a little ways to finally reach the village. Ikitara-san, feel free to explore with Amaro-san until it's time to meet with people. And while you're at it, you two can poke to see everyone's opinions on the matter."

Jiro is only half listening as he sucks the last little bits of food off of the tips of this fingers. Don't want to waste anything after all. He does hear the part about exploring and then talking with people about 'the matter'. Oh yeah they were here for an official reason huh. The boy turns to look at Arika giving her a toothy smile and not noticing that there is actually a little piece of food stuck there. "We get ta explore on our own." That seems like a lot of fun. And possibly a lot of mischief. Who knows what there is to steal there…

As if seeming to know what Jiro's thinking, Ping gives him a light scolding look. "If any of you cause trouble, then I won't hesitate to drag you back to Suna and keep you locked in your rooms until then." Ping gets up, dusting himself free of sand while Arika finishes the last of her meal. She nods. "Okie, Ping-san!" Then she looks back to Jiro and tries to point out the food stuck.

Oh sure Ping has to ruin all the good fun. Jiro scrunches up his face a bit but finally nods. He'll have to remember to keep his hands to himself, no matter /how/ shiny something is. It might be painful. The boy stands when Ping does, his food well gone. When Arika tries to point out what's in his teeth the boy just looks at her, then mimics her. Is this…a game of some kind?

Arika huffs a bit and just follows after Ping, thinking Jiro is silly for not understanding something that's 'so obvious'. She continues along again, and Ping is his usual silent self. He tends not to talk unless necessary, which is a good thing sometimes… Unless you need to entertain kids… Arika quickly becomes bored with the monotonous travel, and she looks to Jiro for entertainment. The girl makes a handseal, creating a shadow clone. "Jiro-kun, which me is the real me?" she asks gleefully, the two running around each other to messing things up further.

Jiro clasps his hands behind his head as they watch, not seeming to mind it so much. Better than sitting in the Academy that's for sure. When Arika asks her question the boy blinks and looks back at her, confused. "Uh…" he looks /really/ hard, trying to spot some kind of difference, then finally points at one. "Tha' one?" Okay it's just a guess, but he has a 50/50 chance!

The clone poofs, and it seems Jiro was right. His finger remains pointed at Arika! Of course, this just makes the girl pout again. "Lucky guess…" she huffs. She'll have to make it better next time. The girl ponders a bit, wondering what else she could possibly do to have fun when the rattling of a cart up ahead greets her ears. Ping hmms lightly and goes to investigate the noise, telling the two kids to stay here for the time being. When he comes back, he doesn't seem upset or injured, so the cart is a 'good guy' so to speak. "Ikitara-san, I believe you might know the cart owners?" he says with a hint of a lilt in his voice to make the statement a question.

Jiro just grins at Arika when he's right, acting like he knew it alllll along. The boy raises his chin in the air and crosses his arms. "Well it wasn' that hard ta do." He states simply before he returns to walking. When they hear the cart and Ping tells them to stay put a kunai comes out, just in case…but when this time it's 'okay' the boy relaxes some. If Ping says it's okay he's not going to worry about it after all. Jiro looks from Arika to the cart people when Ping says…she knows them? He watches carefully.

Arika blinks and rushes forward, encountering none other than Jon and Hachiro! The two wave to the girl they recognize. "Arika-chan," greets the Glass Master. "You've been working hard, I see, if you're making your way to Konoha." Arika nods excitedly. "Uh-huh! I get to see a buncha new things! And different Shinobi and stuff." The girl looks back to see Jiro. "Hachiro-san, this's Jiro-kun! He's helping me with this mission and stuff! Also, he's a friend of mine." Jon, who is a bit older, offers a wave, but seems to be busy making sure the cart is in working order while they're stopped.

Shinies! And they aren't in Konoha yet so /technically/ Pings previous warning isn't in effect…right? Jiro gives a bow of greeting to Hachiro and Jon with a smile, "Nice ta meet'cha." He says, acting very polite and all. Perhaps a little too polite? There's pretty much a big warning sign over his head for anyone that knows him.

Ping eyes Jiro as he comes along, tapping the boy's head to say 'No, no stealing'. Hachiro smiles and bows lightly. "It's nice to meet you, Jiro-kun. Would you three like a ride? I imagine you two are small enough to fit in the front seat with me." Ping can walk. He's a Jounin. Arika brightens a bit. "So does that mean you're going to Konoha too?" she asks. "Well, Kadomai," the man explains. "But the village is on the way. We'll be taking a large raft so I can transport my goods a bit easier." Ping hmms lightly. "If you don't mind us accompanying you, that would be nice."

Jiro ducks his head a bit when Ping taps it, looking over his shoulder with a half-glare. Darn people, reading his mind or something. At the mention of a ride Jiro looks to Ping first. Assuming the man says it's okay he'll follow after Arika to take a seat…though his eyes do linger on all the neat stuff in the back. So far he's keeping his hands to himself. Such a good boy. "Where'd'ya get all'a this?" He asks curiously.

There's not much to look at, considering most of the wares are wrapped securely. But there are one or two larger objects that are uncovered, which would give Jiro a sense of their wares. "I made them all myself, actually. Glass-making is hard work, though, so I have to stop back in Suna for more sand pretty often. I was actually coming back from it myself. I guess you guys caught up to me, though," Hachiro replies.
Arika clambers into the cart at Ping's nod and moves to follow along in the back, the man casually on the lookout for anything even remotely suspicious. As they look around, there would be shadows surrounding them, just watching from all angles. It's making Ping nervous, but he doesn't show it. The same applies to the Glass Master. The shadows could be humans or animals or just branches, but there's something creepy about them either way…

The kid seems surprised when the merchant says that /he/ made them. And he would actually feel a little bad from taking something from the person who made it, since they need it to live just like him. He'd have to wait till someone bought something and /then/ steal it. Problem solved. "Look's neat." The boy comments simply then, shifting in his seat to give the older boy a semi-wary look before turning back to see where they're going. As they go and the shadows start looking spooky the boy gets a little restless, fidgeting on the chair and looking around even though he can't quite pinpoint /why/ he's nervous, only that he is. He gives an occasional look to Arika and Ping too, just to see if he's the only nervous one. Maybe it's just being so far from the village…

Ping and Hachiro are skilled shinobi, so they're the ones to drive off the shadows. Ping's seals whip out from his sleeve and wrap around one of the clones, causing it to poof from existence. Hachiro makes seals to send a bolt of fire at the tree line, careful to keep it on a single path so that he doesn't start a forest fire. "Dad, what're you doing??" Jon exclaims, to which Hachiro says, "I thought I saw a bear and I didn't want it to bother us." The Glass Master and Ping exchange looks, and Ping disappears quickly to scope out just how many clones there might be.
Arika looks nervous and confused, much like Jiro. Jon is more confused than anything, his own senses not quite up to snuff like a trained shinobi (or one who is in training). "I guess we gotta let Ping-san handle it, then?" she asks Hachiro, who simply nods and keeps his eyes on the road ahead. Softly, he sighs, muttering, "I shouldn't've picked them up…"

Jiro notices things are a little off but still isn't sure why, not until Ping and Hachiro start doings things. Then the boy is standing in the wagon and looking around. He doesn't jump off or anything but he's definitely watching now. When Ping disappears the boy frowns a little and reaches back into his pack, grabbing a kunai without actually pulling it out. He doesn't sit back down again either since he can't look behind them that way, instead staying standing unless something else happens to prevent that from happening!

Eventually Ping returns, and he doesn't seem too much worse for wear. He gives Hachiro a quick glance before shaking his head and saying, "How much longer until we get to the river?" Hachiro hmms. "A few days, at least. But we'll make good time. What'd you have to check on, by the way?" Arika looks curious as well, even as she tugs Jiro back into his seat once the Jounin returns. "Nothing. Just a deer," Ping says nonchalantly. In truth, he hadn't found anything. The shadow clones had disappeared to wherever their owner is…

Jiro isn't so sure about things just being a deer. You don't shoot fire at a deer. Unless you're cooking it. He does sit when Arika tugs him down however, bringing his empty hands back in front of him. The kid looks more serious now and is still on edge. Thoae shadows had been weird and he doesn't buynthat nothing was there for a moment. The boy looks over his shoulder at Ping, staring at the man.

Ping ruffles Jiro's hair. "Don't worry about it too much. It's taken care of, so relax." He has to talk to Hachiro sometime later on the journey, but that can wait until the young ones go to bed. "Enjoy the sights. I've cleared any bandits between here and the Land of Fire for a large radius." Arika looks hesitant, but she nods and settles down, turning to Hachiro to ask him about his different creations. Did he make animals? Could she borrow one? Does he have any paper?

The boy ducks his hair at the ruffles and again gives Ping a little glare. What is it with the hair ruffling? Doesn't he know how hard that is to fix? It makes his hair look weird(er). But he does relax a little more when Ping says it's clear for a while since he knows he can trust the man. Sure he's not fully relaxed and is still kind of watching the shadows but he doesn't look like he's about to pull out any kunai either. In fact once Arika starts talking to Hachiro the younger kid turns a bit to look back at Jon. "Wha'cyer name?" He met Hachiro but nobody actually told him Jons name. Too bad Jiro seems to not like older kids so much because the look on his face is a little suspicious. But then at Arika and Ping know he's had troubles at school being called names by the older students so it might not be a real surprise.

"I'm Jon!" the older boy replies, offering a friendly grin. "You're… Jiro, yeah? Arika-chan helped me and my dad while we were traveling to Suna once. Her and… uh… Rikuto-San, I think." He nods. Arika does too, hearing the conversation, but her attention is mostly on the Glass Master, who offers her a glass figurine to try and sketch on their journey. Ping is busy making sure nothing else is amiss, but so far so good!

Jiro nods when Jon says his name, glancing at Arika as she reaffirms the other boys story before looking back to him. "So ya travel a lot? Must mean yer a good fighter ta keep this stuff safe." He says, glancing down at all of the mostly wrapped glass pieces. Admittedly the boy is having a hard time not just taking a /little/ something even if he would feel a little guilty. They're just so. Trip. Shiny.
Arika starts to sketch the little glass figurine that Hachiro had gifted her, using it as a guide/reference. Any good artist has a way to draw at a moment's notice, and Arika is no exception. The girl quickly sketches out a fox and adds details, even as Hachiro blinks. "Trouble…" he sighs. How unlucky can a guy get? From the bushes, a small bomb rolls out, eventually coming to a halt and releasing sleeping gas!

Jiro looks back at the Glass Master, seeming a little surprised before he looks back to Jon again. "My paren's were shinobi too until the war was over. They didn' wan' me ta go to the academy but I still did." Of course they did allow him to go, it's not like he ran away. The kid opens his mouth to say something else when Hachiro speaks, causing him to turn quickly and this time the kunai comes out. He doesn't know what it is but he knows it's not good…but he's kind of stuck. If he leaves then he can't help Arika, but if he stays then whatever that is will just be…bad! The boy puts away the kunai again and jumps off of the cart running /towards/ the smoke, pulling off his sash and putting it over his mouth and nose. He also holds his breath when he goes in since he doesn't know what it might do. Jaunt, it could just burn his skin. Really not smart. But assuming no one forcibly stops him he's going to try and kick that thing back the way it came!

Arika narrows her eyes at Hachiro's comment and quickly stuffs her art away as well as the glass figure, watching out for something. ~Run…~ comes that voice, so she sprints off in a random direction before the bomb even goes off. Of course, once it does, she sees Jiro try to be a hero and charging at the smoke bomb. A figure wearing a mask appears over the boy, who is probably passed out, but she's faster and manages to drag her friend away. Arika drags him a distance, relying mostly on her speed to get him out of the situation.
In the meantime, Hachiro has disappeared, and his son is hiding out in the back unconscious. Ping is also away, dealing with some of the more difficult bad guys in this newest group. The one that attempted to grab Jiro simply waits for the gas to clear before trying anything, as if he has all the time in the world.

Alright so maybe he should've though about that a little better, but he'd hoped to keep others from getting knocked out. A little too protective perhaps. Regardless he almost makes it to the gas can before he has to breath and the effects run through his small body quickly. He's not out for long though since Arika pulls him out…"Ari-chan," he says, still a little groggy as he pulls the sash off his face. "Tha' was stupid. It could've got ya." The kid turns to look back towards the smoke consumed wagon, hoping everyone made it out okay before he looks towards the figure that stands there, waiting. He gets back to his feet, sash in one hand and kunai in the other, still a little wobbly from the effects of the gas.

Arika pokes her tongue out at Jiro. "I can at least use wind to speed me up. And speaking of that…" She makes a handseal and does a kick, jumping and twisting so she can send a gust of wind in the direction of the container. That basically cleans the area of the gas and reveals their attacker, who shields himself from the gust easily. The attacker gets attacked, then, as Arika throws a wind-sharpened kunai at the man. "We keep getting attacked by things and we'll end up dead before we even reach Konoha!" she complains. "Jiro-kun, get up," she then says, tugging the boy so he's on his feet and steady.
The bandit tries to avoid the kunai, but he ends up getting cut in the face. The gas mask comes off to reveal a man who looks remarkably like Hachiro. But there's something darker about his features… He looks angry, slightly older, and none-too-patient when it comes to kids attacking him. With a handseal, he sends several mud bullets after the two kids, aiming to make them run away.

Jiro is finally on his feet if still a little unstead with Arika's help when he sees the bullets coming his way. Without thinking he rolls to the side, grumbling a little to himself when he can't jump right back to his feet. Stupid gas. He pushes himself back up in time to see that other mud bullets were sent towards Arika and he gnashes his teeth angrily, looking at the man. Wait…is that the same one? The boy throws a kunai at the man before being stupid…again…and charging at him. Obviously this isn't just some bandit but Jiro isn't going to let the man attack his friends!

The different attacks are all aimed at the Hachiro look-alike, but he raises a barrier of earth to take the hits. Unfortunately for him, he pops out too soon and gets struck twice by Arika's wind-sharpened kunai that she threw after avoiding the muddy bullets that were incoming. With a *POOF* of smoke, he disappears, which makes Arika blink. Where'd he go? And … why was /Hachiro/ attacking them? She furrows her brow a bit as she thinks these questions over, looking to Jiro to gauge his reactions.

Jiro is far from happy. He slides to a stop once the man vanishes and he stares at the spot where the guy had been. "A clone…" the kid mutters, recognizing the poof as the same thing Arika's clones do when they go away. That's not a good sign and he starts looking around slowly to see if there's more clones, or the guy is actually there. Where the voyage did everyone else go? And was that really Hachiro? Jiro looks back at Arika and walks towards her, putting his sash behind his neck and letting it just hang in front of him for now as he reaches for the older girls hand to try and drag her back to the cart. He wants to check what happened there but he isn't leaving Arika alone. Nope!

Arika allows herself to be dragged, the girl keeping up with Jiro to go back to the cart. Jon was asleep from the gas still, and Ping reappears with Hachiro in cuffs, both men looking extremely beat up from a fight. Ping actually looks better than Hachiro, though, as he drags the man along. "These two will temporarily be under arrest. Let's continue with our journey for the time being, Ikitara-san. Jiro-san." He keeps Hachiro tied and puts him in the back of the cart while they travel, creating binding seals to keep them in the cart for now. They can be questioned later.

Jiro is confused. Why did Hachiro attack them? Why did he attack his own son? The boy doesn't ask anything at first as he hops into the cart and turns to stare at the two stuck in the back for a long while. "Ping-san…what 'appened?" He asks finally, glancing over at Ping uncertainly. It was a small question but could hold so much.

Ping glances to Jiro and simply shakes his head. "I suppose we'll find out eventually, Jiro-san." Arika is silent as she ponder over everything that happened, trying to make sense of what all had happened. What she knew of shadow clones and all their abilities. Perhaps that would give some key insights into what would happen? She sighs and leans back. "Let's rest a bit and let Ping-san keep watch tonight," she tells Jiro, pointing to the moon that's starting to rise as the sun sets below the horizon.

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