Date: March 4, 2016
A C-Rank mission to repair a bridge becomes a B-Rank unexpectedly.
"Kunoichi Bomb Squad"
Land of Fire
Recently some sort of terrorist bomber killed a number of Konohagakure ninja, and injured several others, during an attempt to escape from his captors. Uchiha Suzu was a member of impromptu team that went after the man. While he was recaptured, members of the team were injured. Suzu included. After finding out her daughter was in the hospital with broken ribs and nearly died like several others had just prior, Tsugumi decided it was far too dangerous to keep sending Suzu out on missions with strangers, unsupervised.
If she finds a team leader she can trust to guide and protect Suzu, then fine. Otherwise, Tsugumi is now Suzu's team leader. Today, Tsugumi is strapped into shinobi gear she hasn't worn in about seven years. It's a bit tighter than she remembers it being, and she had to do some stretching exercises to get the kinks out, but she is ready outside Konohagakure's gates with a simple mission. She made sure to request Suzu be assigned to the team.
According to what she was told, there will also be a Hyuuga girl… Well, that shouldn't be a problem. An all-girls team tends to be pretty capable. The lack of a fourth member is the only issue. But with the recent deaths, forces are spread a bit thin for a C-Rank mission.
It's morning, and the sky is cloudy. The clouds are gray, indicating the potential for rain fall. Likely, given that it's spring. But for now, at least, the ground remains dry aside from some morning moisture still clinging to plants.
If you want to find someone, then you pick either the Hyuuga or the Inuzuka, or both to help find them. So, its only logical that the adorable Hyuuga girl, Reime, is assigned to Tsugumi's new little team. Or maybe its because she is a hopeful medic. Or just wants to be on a team and its a new one…
She shows up, ready and able. Quite excited. Ready to go. She is young, not entirely inexperienced, though not an overly advanced shinobi, she is able to at least hold her own as a genin. "Soo… what's the mission going to be?" She inquires of Tsugumi as she eyes the suspiciously topheavy woman.
Suzu is here! She is armed! She has mostly recovered from her injuries thanks to medical ninjutsu, though she wouldn't call her ribs 'fully healed', per se. So she is going to be taking it easy. She is totally ready for this mission! …Kind of.
She is standing off to the side, back straight, head up, arms down stiffly at her sides, looking like a dog waiting at attention, kind of.
Standing up straight is not benefitting her ribs per se, or her lower back, but she is determined to show she is a super professional ninja and that her injuries were not her fault, so that her mom won't accompany her on every mission. It's embarrassing!
It's the first time she's ever seen her mom in ninja gear, and… Wow. Leave it to Suzu's mother to make her feel small. "—Ah, Reime-san! Hello!" Suzu greets. Then she blinks and turns to look at Tsugumi. "Yes, what is the mission, um… Team… Leader?" How does one address the team leader when they're your mom?
Tsugumi folds her arms under the chest that seems to be the subject of so much attention (she's used to it), and introduces herself. "I am Uchiha Tsugumi." She nods to Reime and then explains the mission. "It's straight forward. A C-Rank. There's a bridge in need of repair, but the environmental conditions makes it too dangerous for civilians to handle it. We need to locate the structural weaknesses, using our own senses and ability to get to places that the villagers can't, and apply enough reinforcement that it can last until better weather. We don't need to repair the whole bridge, just keep it from falling apart before professionals can get to it."
She looks to Suzu and says, "Remember to be CAREFUL." She then looks to Reime. "BOTH of you. We are here to repair a bridge, not to save our own team because they got swept away by white water rapids. Can you both walk on water yet? Or at least on walls? That would benefit accessing the bridge, and somewhat diminish the danger of the water… Though getting your head smashed into a rock before you can stand on the water is just one example of how it's still possible to get injured."
Once she is certain that both of the other kunoichi understand the mission, she nods, turns away, and says, "Alright then. Let's get going." And then they're off!
…And along the way, she tells Suzu, "You do not need to give me a special title."
Reime sort of… falters at the mention of water waking and wall climbing. She is incapable of doing either. "I…. uhm, I can't walk on walls or water, Uchiha-san." She perks up just a tiny bit. "But I am a really good climber!" She smirks a little bit. Its better than nothing. Hopefully.
"I like to build things. And a bridge will be neat." She looks over at Suzu as if hoping that her new teammate would confirm that claim.
Suzu runs along after her mom and alongside Reime, after confirming that she can, indeed, walk on walls and water. It wasn't easy to learn. And remembering… Exactly HOW she learned… Who HELPED her… Her thoughts wander back to Arashi, and all of THOSE issues. But she has to keep her mind on the job right now. No time to miss him.
She casts a side-long look at Reime, who appears to be hoping for Suzu to confirm her love of building. "You like building things?" Welp! Or maybe she wanted confirmation the bridge would be easy, but Suzu has never fixed a bridge, so she has no idea.
As they race through the forest, arms out behind them as they go, Suzu can feel the pain in her ribs. Maybe she should have stayed in the hospital instead of trying to sign up for a mission so soon. Maybe her mom is trying to show her how important taking care of herself is. If this was a combat mission, with enemies to fight… Could Suzu battle at full strength in her condition? What if something unexpected happens on THIS mission?
As harsh as her mother can be sometimes, Suzu has to admit… Her mother is once again teaching her a valuable lesson in her own way. No lecture this time. Just letting her see for herself the consequences of irresponsibility. Suzu responds better to positive reinforcement than negative, at least when it comes to training and progress. But this… It's neither positive nor negative. She is simply being allowed to experience it for herself, and draw her own conclusions.
And she has to admit… Her mom is right. She'll have to recover fully from now on, instead of pushing herself like this.
Lost in her thoughts, she eventually snaps back to the present, and starts focusing on her surroundings. Incautiousness isn't going to help her either. This close to Konoha, they should be safe, but with that Toujitakumi renegade just killing a bunch of people practically right outside the gates, the realization that the forest isn't entirely safe now sits with her.
"You never know when you'll need that kind of skill, Reime-san. If you want, I can help you learn when we get back." Teaching shouldn't require her to do physical activity that could worsen her actions. It's just Chakra control.
…Hah. 'Just'. Her Chakra control was awful a few months ago. A Hyuuga is probably much better already.
Tsugumi is very sensitive, though her harshness belies that many times. She is aware that something is troubling her daughter, but this isn't the time to address it. Instead, she just provides her own form of kindness, by doing what she can to keep Suzu safe. "Focus," she gently commands. Thankfully, Suzu gets her head back on the mission. The offer to teach Reime is a good one. Tsugumi might have offered herself if she'd had the time to devote to it.
"It should be fine, Reime. Your Byakugan should be useful regardless, for seeing the flaws in the structure." If she can climb as well, then great. But knowing what they need to repair instead of just guessing will cut down on their time on this mission tremendously.
Eventually, they make it to the bridge, after a lengthy run. It's not the wooden kind of bridge, but the stone kind. It links the central and north-western sections of the Land of Fire, crossing over a raging river, swollen with rain water. Infact, it has begun to rain right now. The roaring of the river is difficult to hear over, but they shouldn't need to. The supplies they need have been left here, and a man is leaning against a tree, trying to stay out of the rain, to make sure nobody steals the equipment.
When Tsugumi, Suzu, and Reime all come running up, the man does a double-take, his attention taken in by the trio of pretty ladies, before Tsugumi points at her forehead protector. "We are the ninja from Konoha that were hired to fix the bridge. We will be using the equipment and supplies now."
"Oh, uh… Yeah. Yeah, go right ahead! Uh… Thanks!" he offers, scratching his head with one hand gesturing at the tool boxes, the lumber, the rope, etc.
Tsugumi turns to Reime and says, "If you could?" while indicating the bridge.
Reime smile awkwardly as Tsugumi assures her that her Byakugan would be useful. "I've not been trained to use my Byakugan in that fashion yet… but… I-I can try?" She seems a little uncertain about that.
So, when they arrive and its time for her to do her thing, she activates her Byakugan fully and begins searching the bridge for places they need to work. "Uhm… I have no idea how to build a bridge so I am not sure what I am looking for."
Suzu's offer of training is ignored! WELL THEN. She just faces straight ahead and pays attention for the remainder of the run, until they reach their destination. Suzu is… Gradually starting to become more perceptive. Not as naive as she was only a few months ago. Looks she previously was oblivious to, she's starting to notice and realize the nature of. It's embarrassing, and she isn't sure how to deal with it, but most of the attention seems to be on her mom, so Suzu just focuses away on the bridge.
"Well, we don't need to build the bridge, just look for obvious problems and repair them, right? Like… If there's a huge hole, or cracks, or something?" Suzu doesn't know how to either build or repair bridges, but assumes it will be straightforward, much like Reime did.
Bridges are only complex architectural edifices that use math and physics and stuff to support not only their own weight, but the weight of everyone who passes over them. Any chump should be able to handle this…!
Anyway, Suzu picks up some gear, opening up a tool box and looking inside, while waiting to hear from Reime if she sees any problems.
"—Wait, what do you mean you aren't trained to use the Byakugan for seeing things yet?" Suzu suddenly asks as that little tidbit penetrates her awareness.
Tsugumi frowns slightly at Reime saying she isn't trained to use the Byakugan for perceiving things. Why was she assigned to the mission then? Either way, even an untrained Byakugan should be more useful than the Sharingan for seeing through structures. The Sharingan is not x-ray vision, no matter how many other abilities it possesses. She ignores the man beyond giving him a polite nod after that. He oggle all he likes. But if he looks at Suzu…
And then he does, and lightning fast, Tsugumi has seized the man by his chin and his holding his head up and towards her as her eyes display the red and black of the Sharingan. "That's my daughter, both of these girls are teenagers, and I'm married. Be careful where you direct your eyes."
The man, sweating, cheeks being squished inwards by an iro ngrip to give him a fish-face, gives a distorted noise of acknowledgment/terror. Tsugumi releases him, and he stumbles back and away. His job is done here, time for him to go!
While Tsugumi is busy with that, she leaves Reime and Suzu to get started on the bridge.
Reime puffs up a little bit. "I am trained to use it, but… I'm a kunoichi, not an engineer!" She protests. "I have no idea what is or is not important…" She lets out a sigh. "Hold on…" She looks over the bridge for a moent while Tsugumi gets all over the guy for ogling Suzu.
"So… there's some strange stuff. Like… tags. Do you think they were used to repair or build the bridge? Maybe we should look at them. Theymight help us out." She smiles a little bit. "So… yeah, we should take a look at them."
Suzu is startled by the guy getting run off, but… Somehow glad that her mother was there. That she showed her how to deal with people like that. She shouldn't tolerate people being creeps. She doesn't have to. She can stand up to them. She hopes Reime understands that lesson too, but being occupied with the bridge, she might not have been paying attention.
Just like how she wasn't paying attention to that offer to teach her how to walk on walls and water.
YES SHE IS STILL UPSET BY THAT.
However, as she faces forwards again and starts heading for the bridge, walking down slope on either side towards the river, she hears Reime's description of what she sees, and gradually slows her approach as a frown forms on her face.
"…Huh? Tags? Why would they use tags in construction?"
As soon as Reime starts reporting that there are tags on the bridge, Tsugumi's blood runs cold. She turns quickly, trying to see where Suzu is, her Sharingan blazing from its subdued level to a bright, glowing red as she checks the bridge for Chakra and recognizes…
"SUZUHA, REIME, GET AWAY FROM THERE—!" she calls out a warning.
Moments later, explosions rock the area as the explosive tags ignite and then blow the bridge apart, sending shockwaves, rock fragments, and large stones flying everywhere, along with a dense cloud of smoke that obscures vision for a moment. At least for the people without X-Ray vision.
If the two girls are unable to get away in time before shattered keystones and slabs of rock, and flesh-shredding stone shrapnel come their way, Tsugumi attempts to use her speed to scoop them both up and get them out of there. But her strength isn't her greatest asset, and carrying two girls might slow her down a bit. And might expose her to attack in the process.
But with the Sharingan, she should be able to see the fragments and dodge them, right? Reime might be able to do the same, or with her Juuken, to strike the projectiles right out of the air!
But that doesn't solve the real problem here.
As Tsugumi checks the other two kunoichi are alright, asking, "Are either of you hurt?" It becomes clear that this bridge needs more than just repairs now. It's been blown to smithereens. By whom though? Tsugumi scans the area for any other Chakra signatures in the area. Anyone who could have remotely triggered the explosive tags…
Depending on Reime's range, either she, Tsugumi, or both of them may notice the only significant source of Chakra in the area is back the way they came, down the road.
…The same way that creep went.
Soo… the bridge is exploding. That is a bit of a surprise for Reime. The biggest surprise, and by biggest… there is definitely biggest involved… is the massive breast that smooshes into her face when Tsugumi lifts her up and carries her out of the blast radius like that. Now! Don't get her wrong, Reime was totally going to take care of herself. Definitely. She was… just a little slow.
When she is released, she nods. "N-no, I'm fine. Uhm… it exploded." With her Byakugan activated, she can see everything in the area without much issue. "I may be a novice… but… unless one of us set those things off, there is only one other person in the area…" She points down the path. "He's going that way…"
Suzu is facing away from the bridge when she hears her mom yell to her, she wastes a split second looking to the older kunoichi in confusion before her training kicks in and faces forwards while trying to leap backwards. She is too slow, however, and the sudden movement makes her ribs flare with pain.
Her own Sharingan is active, even as one eye winces shut, but it's not enough. She was too slow to react! She can see the deadly hail of rock fragments coming her way…!
And then she sees only darkness as she finds herself in a similar position to Reime, right up until she is put down on the ground. Her face is freed and she can breathe again! …Though breathing kind of hurts right now. Her side hurting as she tries to stagger to her feet from where she was set down and a hiss of pain escapes between her teeth, but she tries not to let it stop her. "I'm… Okay. No new injuries, at least. Why would anyone want to blow up this bridge? Does it have some kind of strategic value?" Stupid question. A lot of bridges have strategic value. Still pumped up on adrenaline, and looking around wildly for further danger, and then turning to check Reime out, leaning over her and inspecting her, she doesn't even think about the possibility that the one responsible could still be in the area. She doesn't know a lot about seal tags. For all she knows, these ones were timed and designed to go off after a certain length of time had passed.
But then as she had hands on Reime's cheeks, and is trying to turn the other girl's head to the side to check for head lascerations, she hears what is said. And she feels cold, suddenly. Much like her mother did upon hearing there were paper tags.
That… That guy who was checking them out? He was an enemy ninja the entire time? He didn't look like one. Didn't act like one. He could have stabbed them in the back when they weren't facing him. He could have waited for them to be working on the bridge and THEN blown it up. They could be DEAD, as easily as that.
The only reason they're alive is because they had Reime with them. That's scary. And with her ears ringing from the explosion, Suzu is beginning to become very tired of people who blow things up, as well as the blowing up itself.
The gentle kunoichi turns angrily and says, "I guess we should go after him then, before he makes something else explode."
Then she starts running without being told to, heading down the path. She only gets about 30 feet, however, before she notices something that wasn't originally visible on their approach of the bridge. A human hand barely visible in the shade beneath some ferns and bushes. There's someone else there!
Suzu doesn't see any Chakra, but maybe the person running down the path is a decoy and the real culprit is—
As she picks up a bridge and uses it to poke at the person, wary of further traps, there is a distinct lack of responsiveness. No Chakra so there's no Seal Tags. Wait… Is this…?
"…I think I found the man we were actually supposed to meet here, ladies." Suzu calls out, an undercurrent of pain and anger in her voice, as well as simple confusion. Why would anyone DO this?
Tsugumi notices the pain Suzu is in, but it seems her daughter is able to stand and move around, so she lets it go for now. Instead, she hears what Reime says, and stands up, removing her arm from around the Hyuuga and turning to face back down the path. Yes. She sees him now. As Suzu starts to run off, Tsugumi tenses. But Suzu is at least smart enough not to just approach a body lying in the bushes without checking it first. Especially after this experience with explosive tags. Reime should be able to clearly see that it's a dead body, no tags. Just some old man who brought all these supplies here to help them, and got killed for it.
"Keep alert, and follow me," Tsugumi orders completel coldly and emotionlessly as she stands up and starts running down the path, beyond the point where Suzu stopped. They can worry about the bridge later. They can't let that murderer get away.
After running for awhile, thr trio should spot two or three more explosive tags that can easily be avoided with their ability to see Chakra and x-ray vision through trees. That's probably why the man detonated the bridge prematurely. He realized there was a Hyuuga and two Uchiha here, and that they would notice the tags right away. He probably wasn't expecting this exact team composition… Didn't think that there might be this many sensor ninja in one group. And he got scared, ran, and set off the tags to try to buy some time and maybe injure some of the ninja in the process.
Thanks to Reime… Yes. That didn't happen. Tsugumi wouldn't have bothered using the Sharingan for something like this, because she wouldn't have been expecting to find any Chakra sources.
But as trees flash by on either side, and the traps the man leaves behind him become sparser, more erratically placed, and further apart, it's clear he's running scared. The first of the explosions goes off hundreds of yards behind them, destroying nothing but trees, bushes, and maybe some hapless birds and squirrels. But the explosions are going off closer and closer, as the tags they passed and avoided are remotely detonated. Nowhere near able to actually hurt them, especially after it's clear the man stopped putting traps up at all in favor of running for his life.
But it's still loud and anxiet-inducing to have the flare of flames and the boom of explosions coming at you from behind.
Then the man comes into sight, gasping and panting for breath, as he sprints full force. Perhaps faster than a basic Genin, but not too fast for Tsugumi to slow him down for the other two. Because earlier, she did something to the man that he didn't notice. When she looked him in the eye with her Sharingan, she cast a Genjutsu, just incase he should ignore her instructions and keep on leering at them.
And the moment he looks over his shoulder to see if he's being followed, in his perception, his legs just snap off at the knees, blood and sinew stretching, tearing, and spilling on the ground. He screams out, staggers, and falls on his face. He looks back in horror, seeing he has just become a paraplegic. "Aah… AAAAAAAHHH!" he yells out as he flips over onto his back, no longer noticing the three kunoichi closing on him through his pain.
Of course, to Suzu, Reime, and Tsugumi, the man appears to be perfectly fine.
Except, of course, for his disturbed Chakra.
Reime… is quite pleased with the way that Suzu checks her over for injuries. It makes her feel special. She smiles and giggles and then runs after the other ladies. She'd probably never have caught the man on her own. They probably traveled at about the same pace, so by the time she gets there, she is badly winded, especially after the other run. So, the Hyuuga is off to the side trying to collect herself and get her breath back. "W-well…" She pants a bit. "We caught him!"
Suzu was glad to find Reime okay, of course. They've only met a couple of times… But she likes Reime so far. But then, it's hard to find someone Suzu DOESN'T get along with.
Suzu may be in a bit better condition than Reime stamina wise, but she too isn't super fast. She can see the disturbance in the Chakra, but it takes her several moments between the run full of danger, her senses being thrown into disarray by explosions, the pain in her side, her anger that has replaced her fear, and so on to connect the dots. She draws a kunai, breathing heavily, chest heaving, and looks to Reime to make sure she hasn't gotten injured by any of that. Then she turns to the man, knowing she may be overstepping her bounds a bit, and calls out, "Wh-who are you? Why did you do all this?" Unlike her mom, she doesn't really have any idea what this could have been about. A new friend of hers, her mom, and herself… Any or all of them could have been hurt or killed. She has never even SEEN this guy before.
The concept that he might not have had a reason, or that his reason might have had nothing to do with them personally, just whichever Konoha shinobi showed up, doesn't seem to be penetrating right now.
The ninja indeed appears to be captured… Though his motives are still unknown.
Tsugumi attempts to use Genjutsu to interrogate him, looking down at the man who believes his legs to have been severed, and watching his labored breathing. "Answer her—" she starts to command, but then she notices something. Something that the other two might notice as well. As the man sits up, hunched over and wheezing, sweating heavily, his downwards-sweeping brown hair dripping with his perspiration, he… Doesn't appear to be under the Genjutsu anymore.
Too late, Tsugumi notices that when the man sat up, after turning over onto his back, he broke his own finger when he pushed himself up from the ground… And his uninjured hand comes surging forward, making a single hand seal, and then opening again to be palm-open, aimed right for Tsugumi's belly, as he yells out, "Explosion Release: Little Flower!"
Right as the palm touches Tsugumi, despite her attempts to dodge backwards, there's an explosion that looks likes its blown right through her torso and out the other side, the flames wreathing around her and turning into a pillar of fire.
She never even gets the chance to scream.
That's how it looks, at first, as flames pool on the spot where Tsugumi once stood, now apparently immolated utterly in a flash.
The bomber pushes himself up onto one knee, and then onto his feet, as he leers at the two girls, with a mix of pain, anger, and dark desire in his face. "Hehehe… I must have grown more powerful than I thought to have that kind of effect with Little Flower. Unless you two girls want the same treatment, do exactly as I tell you to. You're gonna' be my hostages for a little bi—"
There's suddenly a kunai pressed to the bomber's throat from behind. Tsugumi is standing behind him, the armor over her belly slightly scorched from where the explosion went off.. But it doesn't appear to have gone any deeper than that.
"Wh… A clone—?" the man tries to ask, but Tsugumi pulls the blade tighter against his throat, drawing blood, as the kunoichi grabs him by the hair to hold him still. He shuts up.
"I replaced myself with the flames from your explosion before it could grow enough to harm me. I recognized the hand seal as a Toujitakumi focusing sign. And I think interrogating you can wait until we get you back to Konohagakure."
Then she looks to Reime, and says, "Can you use your Juuken to disable him? Shut down as much of his body as you can without killing him. View as practice on a live target. After all he's done and tried to do to us, you shouldn't have any qualms about making him a safer prisoner, right?"
The Toujitakumi gulps, the mere act of swallowing causing more blood to spill.
This is what he gets for underestimating these three kunoichi. They'll find out his real motives later, when he's handed over to the Interrogation Corps.
The murdered man, and the destroyed bridge, will have to wait for now.