Date: January 10, 2015
Atsuro leads a team of shinobi to the Land of Snow to find the village where Lady Feather's scheduled to appear. After much traveling, the group arrives and have the villagers evacuated. They discover that Natsumi had infiltrated the place a few weeks ago and set up a barrier to lock people in when Lady Feather starts her jutsu. The team couldn't disarm the seals, but they make some modifications to disperse some of its power at time of activation. Eremi also discovers a letter addressed to Atsuro while scouting, presumably from Natsumi.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"This Immortal Coil - Leaves Among Snow"
Land of Fire & Land of Snow
It's now dusk, and Atsuro has called a halt. Since he's planned to give the team of Leaf nin plenty of time to get to the Land of Snow, it's better to simply stop at night rather than risk trouble by travelling in the dark. It's a fairly large team consisting of genin, chuunin, and jounin, so the camp is fairly large, with a number of tents and fires going, and the smell of food and smoke filling the air.
Atsuro has just started a fire using ninjutsu a ways from his and Taizen's tent. The two of them sit in the grass letting the heat of the fire drive off the cool of the night air while Atsuro whittles points into several long sticks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are packages containing sausages and buns nearby, as well as ketchup, mustard, and relish.
Kenta can be seen moving around the camp to check on the other members of the team. He has a small basket dangling from the crook of his arm. Every time he stops at one of the camp fires, he takes something from the basket to hand out to the people that's huddled around for warmth. Despite the size of the team, it doesn't take him much time to work his way from the other farthest fire all the way to where Atsuro and Taizen are seated.
"Atsuro-senpai. Taizen-senpai," Kenta greets somberly, as if he hadn't been traveling at their side for most of the day. He bows, carefully to avoid upsetting the basket. When he straightens up again, he removes two large brown pills from the baskets. He holds them out and the two Inuzuka can smell the strong medicinal smell that comes from them, all pungent herb and mysterious alchemy. "I brought some pills with me from the hospital. These will help you sleep better and recover more energy while you're at it. We're traveling very hard to make it there before Lady Feather does, so we're going to be too tired to take her down unless we have some extra help."
As Kenta arrives at this fire, Atsuro has finished whittling the sticks and is now holding some sausage links, using his teeth to gnaw away the casing between two sausages. He puts them down as Kenta comes by and explains what he's doing. "Kenta," he says, "You don't have to do that." He pauses, "I mean, I'm glad you did. I want everyone to do anything they can to help. This is important. Just… you're going the extra mile. So, thanks." He smiles and reaches out to take the pills. "They're safe for Taizen too?" he asks.
Then he points to the sausages. "You want something to eat?" he asks, "I promise separate yours without using my mouth. And you can borrow one of my sticks. Or I'll just cook it for you if you still need to hand out pills."
Kenta nods quickly at Atsuro. "Don't worry, Atsuro-senpai. These are safe for ninken. I made sure to ask before I took them. I'll be horrible if I hurt Taizen-senpai by mistake!" The young medic-nin gives both of the Inuzuka an earnest look. "I even made sure to ask for the ingredient list, just in case Yuna-san was mistaken. None of the ingredients that she mentioned produce adverse reactions in ninken."
Then, the lure of sausage becomes a little too much. Kenta stomach growls loudly, like there's a jungle cat hidden under his winter garb. The medic-nin flushes. "Ummm… I don't want to be a bother, but I'd like a sausage, if that won't cause the two of you to go hungry. I shouldn't take any food that you need. There's some energy bars back at my tent, inside my backpack. I can just eat those for dinner."
"Thank you, Kenta," says Taizen, "That is very considerate of you." Atsuro accepts the pills. "Should we eat them right now or when we go to sleep, or what?" He stops to inspect the pill, then looks up at Kenta to hear any instructions he might give. He grins a little as he hears Kenta's stomach gurgling. Seems someone has a weakness for sausage! "Not at all," he says, "It's not like we brought /only/ as much as we could eat. If you don't have any more pills to hand out, take a seat and cook one up. I've got buns for them too, and you can put in ketchup. Or mustard, or relish! Eat, eat!" He pats the ground beside him, gesturing for Kenta to sit down.
"You should eat the pills now and the food right afterwards. I already ate my pill. Just need the food now," Kenta tells Atsuro and Taizen. He sets his basket, which still has pills in them, presumably for the following nights. Then, he slowly lowers himself to the ground, as if he's not sure whether the Inuzuka duo with recant the order. When it doesn't seem like they will, Kenta finally reaches for a stick and a sausage. He expertly spears the latter with the form before holding out the sausage over the fire for a good roasting. "Do you think that the boy… Ummm… Mokuba was really telling the truth? I'm a little worried that we're going to get to the village and nothing will happen. We'll waste our time. Even worst would be if we walk into a trap."
Atsuro nods and swallows his pill, then places the other on his hand and holds it out to Taizen so that the dog can snap it up and swallow it too. "Then you've come to the right place," Atsuro says, "After all, we've got lots of food. And you wanna eat it, don't you? Dooon't youuu?" He watches Kenta start cooking the sausage, then starts working on ones for him and Taizen. He puts a sausage on both of the remaining sticks, then holds one in each hand and moves them out to cook over the flames. Soon, the sausages casing begins to tighten and the crackling of grease can be heard. "He could have been lying," Atsuro admits, "But it seemed like he was telling the truth. And, well, we don't have much else in the way of leads. As for it being a trap… that's partly why I wanted us to arrive in advance. We can scout the village first and make sure everything's as it should be. Then we evacuate the villagers and hopefully set a trap of our own."
Kenta nods his head slowly. "I'm just worry, Atsuro-senpai. He gave us a lot of information on the rest of those Fledglings, but only speculations about that jutsu that's going to be used on the villagers and his sense of geography was so bad when he tried to map out the location of some of those hideouts." He frowns at his own browning sausage, but the expression is a sign of his worry instead of anything that the sausage did. "So this Lady Feather took some kind of ritual medicine and she's going to have one shot to do her special jutsu during an upcoming three day window. She needs three hundred people around for it to work, but need a secure location, which is why she picked a village that's kind of hard to travel to. She's also -supposedly- vulnerable while the medicine is working on her and it'll be easier to catch her. All of this sounds a little too convenient for us."
"I'm a little worried too," Atsuro admits, "And even if he didn't lie, we don't know that he had the right information to start with. But…" He shrugs and shakes his head, "Well, what else can we do? It's the only information we've got to go after Lady Feather with. We know that the jutsu she's doing will kill people, and she's got a whole bunch of kidnapped kids with kekkei genkai. We could try and get information other ways, but that would take time that we might not have." He turns his sausages over. "That's why I want to do as much scouting as we can. Scout the village to make sure it isn't a trap. Scout around the village to try and find her group, scout the group to make sure things are the way we're hoping. Or at least something we can work with. And if it isn't, then we can leave, knowing that the villagers won't be around to be harmed." He frowns slightly, "I hope."
Kenta's furrowed brows smooth out. "It definitely doesn't sound like it'll hurt to evacuate the village. If anything does happen, they won't get hurt. Maybe we can tell them to break off in small groups and hide. It'll make them harder to find. If Lady Feather really only has a three day window to make this work at all, she might not be able to gather all of them together again quickly enough even if…." The young medic-nin fidgets on his seat. He pulls his sausage away from the fire and blows nervously on it. "Ummm… if something happens to us. Mokuba said that probably only the oldest of the Fledgelings will escort her, but that's still a lot of people with kekkei genkai or hidenjutsu. I hope that our group is big enough to handle it… I mean, explosion manipulation, ice manipulation, poison excretion, elemental calligraphy, wasp control… That's just a few and they're all kind of dangerous."
Atsuro nods. "It's definitely important to get everyone out of there. Aside from saving them, it'll hopefully prevent the jutsu from working. A missing-nin is bad enough when they /aren't/ immortal. And I think having them split up is a good idea. If they're all in one group, Lady Feather might find them and manage the jutsu anyway." He sighs, "That's the best we can hope for anyway. Lady Feather is dangerous, there's no doubt about it. Even having some of our best ninja here, she might have outsmarted us… especially if we haven't got the right information to begin with." His sausages are cooked by now, spitting grease and snapping, so he pulls them away from the fire as well. "We have to be prepared to fight," he says, "I'm hoping that some of them won't try to defend her, considering she kidnapped them, but we'll just see. If not, then we have enough ninja with them to take them on for at least a while. If she actually is weak, then maybe one group will be able to deal with whoever they're fighting quickly and capture her. Or kill her."
"I hope that we can take the Fledglings alive. It's not really their fault that they're working for her and it sounds like most of them want to get away. That cursed seal that she put on them is like an unbreakable chain." Kenta pauses and reconsiders his words. "Ummm… not unbreakable. Just very very strong. It's too bad that we weren't able to complete that special kimono the Uzumaki girl dropped. If we could have worked out the remainder in time, we could make a bunch of them and use them to shield the Fledglings from the cursed seal's influence while we take Lady Feather. That would have made everything -much- easier." He lets out a soft sigh and blows on his sausage a few times. Then, he starts to nibble on the fire roasted meat. His stomach grumbles again loudly at the first taste.
"Me too," says Atsuro. He hesitates for a moment, obviously thinking of one of the Fledglings in particular. "We'll have to see what the situation is. I'd like our team to use non-lethal tactics if they can. But if the situation is too dangerous, then I can't order that in good conscience. Otherwise they'll be putting themselves at more risk." He grabs a couple of buns and puts his sausages in them. "Having the completed kimono would have been nice. I'd been hoping Tsukino or someone could get it finished, but… well, yeah. We'll have to do it the old fashioned way. If we come up with a good strategy, then hopefully we can take them down quickly and non-lethally."
"Whatever happens, I'll do my best to support everyone," Kenta promises in a somber tone. He takes another bite of sausage and chews in companionable silence for a moment. "After we evacuate the village, maybe there'll be time to set up some traps and defenses around the area. That'll give us an advantage if it comes to a fight. I bet that between all of us…" He waves his hand towards the other fires. "…we'll be able to put up something to slow down Lady Feather's people. If we can hamper them enough, we'll have a better chance of catching them instead of killing them and keep them from killing us too."
"Yeah," says Atsuro, "There's a lot unknown. Who knows, maybe she really will be weakened — maybe so weakened she won't be able to use the seal for all of them." He sighs a little in frustration as he puts relish, mustard, and ketchup on his bun, then sticks the sausage in. "I don't like the idea of actually having to /kill/ Takato. Not after all this." Taizen just gets a plain bun for his sausage, apparently not being into these human condiments. "We'll have to adapt as the situation changes." He gives Kenta a smile. "I'm glad to know you'll have our back. Thanks, Kenta." He bites into the sausage.
Kenta gives Atsuro a faint smile. "I'm just doing my duty, Atsuro-senpai, and because you're my friend." He finishes the rest of his sausage and looks wistfully at another from the pile. Instead of taking one more, he sighs and gets to his feet. His right arm slides under the handle of the basket of pills, so that it slips over the crook of his elbow again. "I'm going to head back to my tent to finish organizing my things and get some rest." And eat some energy bars. "Have a good night, Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai."
With the days passing by…
It becomes increasingly cold as the shinobi team tasked to intercept Lady Feather travels further north from the Land of Fire. Forest levels out into open land, which in turn become rocky and mountainous. Frigid winds and a constant light flurries assault the Leaf shinobi as soon as they arrive in the Land of Snow itself. The footing is difficult due to the amount of ice and snow covering the uneven ground. This becomes worst as they head deeper into the country, since light flurries often turn into blasts of winter wrath. Conifer forest provides some shelter from the weather, but does little to help everyone keep warm. Everyone's miserable and exhausted by the time they arrive at their destination, thankfully with two days to spare before Lady Feather's "window of opportunity" arrives.
The destination in question is a small village of about three hundred fifty people that's nestled in a hollow at a cliff, created by the curving walls of a sheer mountain range. Heavy snow covered forests hem it in on the other side, making the place difficult to get to, especially during winter. The place usually doesn't get visitors, mostly traders, until later spring or early summer, when snowy weather finally becomes milder in this part of the Land of Snow. The village is nestled directly against the mountains, which acts as a wind breaker, but increases the risk of small avalanches. A strip of cleared land between the village and the forests has two small guard towers set up to watch out for dangerous wild animals, like the locally famous snow bears.
Despite the depressing conditions of their travel, Atsuro has pushed on. It's not just that he's the leader of the team, but that he's determined to see this through to the end — a village of people, twenty one young ninja, and one Inuzuka duo is depending on this team's success. Even in the worst conditions, he's pushed on with vigour. The reward is getting to the village this early. But that's assuming that the information they got is correct and that Lady Feather hasn't changed her schedule.
As soon as the village comes into sight, Atsuro and Taizen lift their noses into the air and sniff several times. They're looking for any scents from the village, whether those scents would indicate trouble or normalcy. "Everyone, be ready," he tells the team, "We're working with limited information here." As they approach the gates, he looks around for someone they can talk to.
Due to the location in which the group was traveling, Eremi had shed his normal attire for one better suited for the environment. Layers upon layers cover the mans body to fight against the flurries while still allowing his movement to remain free and unrestricted if the need for such were to arise. It was all covered by a white cloak clasped around the neck and barely dragged against the snow.
As the village came into sight, Eremi would step forward through the others to approach Atsuro. The command to be ready was given, but questions still hung on his mind, possibly as it did with the others gathered. "Should we be worried about or for the villagers? Do you expect an ambush?" Glancing around revealed nothing to his senses. Not like what Atsuro and Taizen could pick out.
Kenta walks among the shinobi team as Atsuro looks around for someone to talk to. He has a very familiar basket out, one that contains medical pills from the hospital for aiding rest and restoring stamina. It's the same ones that he had been passing out every night during dinner to help maintain the team's energy levels in face of the horrid traveling conditions. With so much snow blowing around, the young medic-nin is bundled up to the point that he nearly disappears into his clothing. Only his short stature and the basket helps identify him.
Moments after they arrive, an older man heavyset and round of belly with a messy white beard pops out from one of the two guard towers. He's swathed from head to toe in an enormous bearskin cloak, whose white fur makes him almost blend into the landscape. As he jogs towards the group, his breath puffs out from the effort and his face reddens. A shorter, fitter looking young man exits the tower and hurries after him. He's probably a guard, since he has a sword at his waist. Another guard leaves the second tower and jogs over to flank the heavyset leader.
"Are you them? Are you them? The ones from Konoha?" the heavyset man gasps out anxiously when he's within hearing distance over the howling wind. He stops within two feet of Atsuro, proving himself to be a head taller and almost twice as wide as the Jounin. Also probably a quarter as fit, seeing how the man sags tiredly and has to place hands on his knees to stay upright. His breath comes out in misty panting. "I'm Mayor Leiko. We received the dispatch from Konoha two weeks ago. Is it true that some terrorists want to destroy our village? You must stop them!"
When the apparent leader of the village comes out and starts over to them, Atsuro picks up his pace slightly and walks over to him. They might have a couple of days, but he doesn't want a second go to waste. Taizen, his thick black coat sprinkled with snow, hurries after him. He listens to what the man has to tell them, and nods slightly. Way to just blurt it out, mayor. Fortunately, he did say it to the real group. "That's us," says Atsuro, "To be exact, we think that a large group of missing-nin has chosen this village as a target for a sort of ritual that involves killing a large number of people. We do plan to stop them. But we'll need some help from you and your people. We think that the missing-nin will arrive in about two days. And, well, we can't guarantee that we can stop them. Do you think you'd be able to evacuate your people, split them into a few different groups, and hide those groups away with enough supplies to last… a few days, at least? I know that's a big request, but we're prepared to help."
Ignored…Upsetting, but not surprising. Eremi was allowed to join the group on this assignment, pulled in late on something that had been going on for quite some time. His input while probably appreciated, could just as easily be unwanted and unnecessary. Proving himself was something Eremi was going to have to do and he accepted this task. When Atsuro stepped forward to greet the Mayor, Eremi would step back, falling back in line with the other shinobi accompanying the team on this mission. From the sounds of things it could be quite dangerous or very simple depending on how the villagers cooperated.
"Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!" Mayor Leiko exclaims. He wrings his hands together while a horrified expression appears on his ruddy face. His bristling white beard trembles from the force of his emotions. The two guards glance at each other and shifts uncomfortably. They keep flashing embarrassed looks at the Leaf shinobi, which their venerable don't even notice. "We're going to be -sacrificed- to some kind of dark god? How -horrible- that would be! We do have to stop that at once, we do! It's an act of divinity that sent you shinobi to help us. Splitting up the villagers in the middle of winter will be hard, but we'll manage. We'll hide in the storage caves. Anything is better than being sacrificed! Think of all the bad luck it'll bring to the village! Yes, yes, yes. We'll do what you say. Whatever you say!" Mayor Leiko spins around, nearly slipping on snow from the speed of the motion, and gestures energetically at the guards. "You and you! Go tell everyone that the Leaf shinobi are here and they want us to evacuate!" he exclaims in a much too loud voice.
Atsuro glances to Eremi, realizing that in his hurry to speak with the mayor, he forgot to answer Eremi's questions. He'll have to apologize later. For now, he has a very melodramatic mayor to deal with. "Thank you," says Atsuro, "I understand it's a big request. I'd like to keep some of my team on lookout, but if you think you'll need some kind of assistance in the evacuation effort, we can probably spare a few people, at least for the time being." He pauses for a moment. Maybe it's time to address another issue Atsuro was worried about. "By the way… has anyone arrived in the village recently, from out of town?"
Through the information Eremi was given and from what he's hearing now, he was curious whether or not splitting people up would help. Lady Feather merely needed 300 people, but what was the range of her abilities and how did they even work. Through contact..chakra..seals…None of it made sense to Eremi, but what he did know was that there was a chance splitting them up may even help the woman in her plans. A lack of information made figuring out what was actually going to help all t he more difficult. Still, doing something was better than nothing at all. If it turns out to be a bad call in the end, Eremi will be as prepared as he can be.
Mayor Leiko starts when Atsuro addresses him again, since he was watching the two guardsmen jog into the village. He spins around and nearly topples over a second time. His ruddy face shows puzzlement. "Visitors? In this weather? Traveling now isn't something that even the sturdiest of mountain men would think of at this time of the year! It must be different for shinobi like you." The heavyset man shake his head vigorously, but aborts the motion so quickly that he almost gets whiplash from it. "No, wait! We did have a visitor three weeks ago! A pretty young girl with red hair and…" He makes a cupping motion under his cloak, around chest height. "I can tell even with all the layers of clothing that she was wearing! She only stayed for two days to traveling during an abnormally heavy snow storm. Strange girl she was! She wanted to avoid traveling until the snow lightened up, but she walked around the entire village every morning on both days!"
Well, that sounds familiar. Aside from the chest-related information which Atsuro has not previously taken note of. Figuring it's better not to let Leiko know that they were infiltrated, he tries to keep his voice neutral as he asks, "So this girl, did she stay out of sight mostly, or was she in plain view a lot of the time? Did anyone see her doing anything in particular, or was she really only walking around?" Depending on the answer, he might need a seal-user to take a look around the village, just to be sure. He wants to ambush them, not the other way around.
With Atsuro handling the Mayor, Eremi would shift further into the crowd of accompanying Shinobi, making his way toward the medic. "Medic!" Calling out like he had always done when in need of Kenta's talents or merely just crying wolf. Unlike the latter, Eremi was interested in one or two of those pills the medic was carrying within that basket. Something for restoring stamina was no more important to others than it was to a taijutsuist. He had plenty to spare, but keeping it at it's maximum from here on out was important.
Mayor Leiko ponders Atsuro's question with the same puzzled expression on his face as before. "She was only walking around. What else would she be doing? Strange girl that one, but she also had nice…" This time, the heavy set man arches his body forward. This causes the heavy bearskin cloak to cover him up even more, but also makes his bottom stick out. The cloak ripples as he pushes his hands back to clap at his bottom. "Very very nice! I watched her from the east guard tower the second day and she showed it off often! Stopped every few minutes to bend over to touch the ground for her stretches." The Mayor straightens up, only to wiggle his body from side to side a few times. "'Madoka,' I told my son. 'That girl has the hips and body structure of a good breeder. You should ask her to stay here with us. I'm getting old and an old man needs some grandchildren to pass his wisdom to..' My son, that silly boy sai—" The Mayor's interrupted when one of the two guards runs towards him to whisper something into his ears. He brightens. "Leaf shinobi! My people will be ready to leave in a few hours. Where's those escorts you promised?"
Kenta's half listening to the Mayor while he passes out those pills of his. He absently nods a few times at what he hears. Yes, body structure is very important for healthy child bearing. The Genin and Chuunin that Atsuro brought along are mostly shaking their heads with various levels of annoyance or amusement. Do they disagree? Kenta blinks when Eremi approaches him well before he would have reached the taijutsuist. "Eremi-san? Do you need me for something? Here have a pill." He offers Eremi a large black pill that smells heavily of medicinal herbs.
Using all of his willpower not to roll his eyes, Atsuro nods along with Leiko's description. "Okay," he says, "We'd better get on with the evacuation then." He points to a number of genin and chuunin. "You, you, you, you, and you, go with them and help out." He points to a couple more, "You, you, and you, keep an eye out for anyone approaching the village." That leaves just Atsuro, Taizen, Eremi, and Kenta. "I'll leave you to it, Mayor," he says, "Let us know if anything arises." Once the mayor and his men have left, he walks over to Eremi and Kenta. "Did you guys here that?" he asks, "I wonder if she left some seals around the village. I think we should look around the eastern guard tower and see if we can find anything suspicious."
Eyeing the pill, Eremi would study it before glancing at Kenta then back at the pill. Was it a suppository? Take with water? Chew it? Whatever. If he was only going to be given one he'd tuck it into his pocket for now as he turned back to Atsuro. "I'm sure she did, but how will you find them?" He really didn't know much about ninjutsu and its inner working. "Could also be a trap waiting for us." The Recluse were seal specialists and always managed to tear Eremi up one way or another. Draining his stamina and bombarding his chakra system…Infuriating. "Can you smell seals?" He knew the answer was a no, but wasn't sure what Atsuro had planned.
As everyone disperses to perform their own tasks, Kenta stays by Eremi's side. He bows shallowly upon Atsuro and Taizen's approach. The young medic-nin frowns at the question that Atsuro poses, but nods at the same time. "That's possible, Atsuro-senpai. We really need to check or we might find ourselves in big trouble. Those of us that's good with seals can also set up some of those defenses that I talked about. Umm… do you think it'll be a bad idea to put explosive and poison tags around the village for traps? It could be a useful tactic, but I don't think the villagers will think the same thing…" Kenta shakes his head. "Umm… back to the seals. We might need to dig around the snow to find seals that were left behind. It's always snowing, so maybe our tampering will be covered up before that Lady Feather arrives. I suggest getting the Hyuuga in the team to look with their Byugakugan. That's the easiest want to spot anything hidden."
Good thing Atsuro has the foresight to bring a Hyuuga along! Hahaha. "It could be," Atsuro admits to Eremi, "But so far it seems like Lady Feather hasn't figured us out. We'll be careful. And I can't smell seals specifically, but I could smell ink or paper — and the scent of the person setting the seal. But with all this snow and the seals having been set three weeks ago…" He nods to Kenta. "Let's take him off watch duty for a bit." He looks up to a nearby rooftop and calls. "Hey, Ryuro! Can you give us a hand and look for seals from that guard tower?" He points to the eastern tower. "Do you have any non-lethal seals?" he asks Kenta, "Like one that could produce that knockout gas you have or something?"
Eremi nodded at Atsuro's response, remaining silent afterwards as they found a solution to their issue. It was times like this, where missions required a certain specialtiy, Eremi regretted that he was only able to use taijutsu. It made him useless in most situations and a bit of a hinderance until he could be used. Where others had many talents to round themselves out, Eremi had just the one. "Perhaps I should help with some of the scouting?"
The Hyuuga Chuunin that Atsuro addressed salutes smartly and makes a seal. Veins spreads from the corner of his eyes over his cheeks as he activates his clan's special dojutsu. He stands there on the roof in complete concentration as he uses the Byugakugan to search out the type of anomalies that Atsuro wants found.
Meanwhile, back on the ground, Kenta's furrowing his brows. "Ummm… I don't have any tags that'll produce non-lethal sleeping gas. The ones that I brought with me will either create a wall of chakra or a small cloud of poison…" He suddenly things of something and turns to Eremi. "Oh! Eremi-san. You're a taijutsuist and you use completely different tactics than Atsuro-senpai. Do you know how to set up traps that don't require seals or ninjutsu?"
Suddenly, Ryuro calls out from the hill top. "I see something, Atsuro-san! There are six seals underneath the snow around the village. Three of them follow the curve of the mountain walls and three form an arch along the cleared land in front of the village." The Hyuuga Chuunin jumps off the roof and hurries towards the small group with something in his hands. It turns out to be some paper that he had hastily sketched a rough map of the village and where the seals are located. All the seals are set at equidistant intervals, forming a large circle.
Atsuro looks to Eremi, then to Kenta and nods. "If you think you can do something like that, it could help us a lot. If not, yeah. We'll need someone to keep an eye out with Ryuro occupied. You might not have the eyes, but you can respond quick to what you do see." He looks up to Ryuro as the chuunin does his work and waits. Much as he'd like to run off and do something else, he knows that discovering and neutralizing any enemy seals could be a huge break. "Thanks," he tells Ryuro, once he's got the map in hand, "We'll check these out. Keep an eye out around the village for us. If they send anyone in advance, we need to be ready for them." He looks down at the map. "Okay, let's go take a look at these seals. How should we approach them, and is there some way we can figure out what it is they're supposed to do?"
"Unfortunately, no." Shaking his head at Kenta, "I can spot a trap, occassionaly, but I haven't taken the time to develop any ways to create them myself. Not any that would fool skilled individuals anyways. Genin or lower and maybe an unlucky Chuunin, sure… Otherwise my talents lie in brute force and speed." Glancing at Atsuro. "Yeah, best way I can help for now. If I see something I'll let you know and if you need my help, signal me some how. I'll keep my ears open." A gentle nod would be given to the pair before he'd start off toward the outer perimeter of the village, assuming he wasn't stopped on his way.
The discussion goes on a little bit longer before everyone in the smaller group splits up again. The larger half consisting of Atsuro, Taizen and Kenta heads off to example the locations where the seals are hidden. Clearing enough of the snow to expose what's underneath turns out to be a hard job, since it requires digging through some frozen layers while being extremely careful at the same time. Who knows what'll happen if they accidentally trigger one of those six seals. Ryuro ends up having to leave his pose to provide the use of his eyes again.
Eventually, the group manages to excavate the first of the seals. It's about a circulate configuration about five feet in diameter and composed of pure chakra bound into the dirt. Natsumi must have prepared all of them beforehand and planted them when she touched the snowy ground, since it's impossible to have painted the seal directly. After much examination, Kenta determines that the seal has two main purpose. The first is to work with five others to generate a barrier around the village that's impenetrable, inside and out, by anyone that doesn't have a special marking on them. The second is to weaken and immobilize the people inside, again only those without a special marking. Destroying or tampering with the seals directly discharges a warning signal. Kenta suggests placing their own seals between the six barrier seals to disrupt or at least weaken the effects and heads off to consult with other members of the team that's well versed in this type of jutsu.
Eremi, being the smaller "half" of the group, performs his scouting duties without any great revelation. At first. The woods around the village seems clear of any visible danger. The village itself with its hustle and bustle of evacuating civilians is harder to investigate. Perhaps by luck, he finds a slim package tucked into the corner of a house's roof, where it'll be unnoticeable by a ground-bound villager and easily found by a shinobi doing a dedicated search. The package, which is wrapped in tarp, turns out to be a padded envelop with Atsuro's name written on it.
Though he doesn't know much about seals, Atsuro asks Kenta to also consider the possibilities of either altering the marking required, or simply giving the marking to the other members of the team — whatever might be possible in the two day timeframe they hopefully have. In any case, he'll wait until Kenta has discussed it with the others, so he heads off to see how other members of the team are doing. He catches up with Eremi just after the package is found.
"What's up?" he asks Eremi, "Anything I should know about?" He glances at the package. "Uh, you got a little present for me?"
Leaving the group to scout the village, Eremi was merely using the available time to keep himself occupied and busy. Otherwise he'd simply be standing around doing next to nothing. This way at least he could watch and make sure the villagers were evacuating properly and no one was getting lost in the process. With days to spare though, the villagers seemed to be doing so in an orderly fashion. It left Eremi to focus on other things, such as an odd looking item, inconspicuously placed out of sight. Something he almost missed looking at himself. When Atsuro arrives, he looks to the others, "It's an envelop with your name on it. Could be a trap. Maybe I should open it just in case." If Atsuro disagrees, then Eremi would hand the envelope over.
The envelop really is a potential danger. Eremi steps away from it as soon as he hands it over to Atsuro. Thankfully, it doesn't explode. It also doesn't explode when Atsuro gives it a quick sniff to identify traps or poisons on it. It still doesn't explode when the Jounin uses a stick to open the flap. Instead of exploding, the package just safeguards a letter written in a feminine hand.
"Atsuro-san," the note starts out saying. "You know who I am. Thanks to you, a person that used to admire you languish in a dungeon. The only time he's allowed to stretch his legs is when she moves us to a different location. A few short days of freedom followed by weeks locked away again. I can hate you for that. I can hate you even more for taking away our hope for escape. My little brother and that sleet partner of his told me what happened. I know that you'll be coming here. You think you're noble. You think you're strong. You think that you can beat her when she's weakened. You're probably wrong. Even if you have her cornered, she'll find a way to escape. She's cunning and she has us under her control, all of our power in her grasp. The only way to beat her is to free us first. Take away her tools. You might not be able to kill her yet, but stop the ritual at all costs. She can't be allowed to finish it, especially because of the cost. I've spoken to as many as I had a chance to. We'll hold back as much as possible without causing her suspicion. I also tell you this. Leave the kimono wrapped up by the well in town center. I know how to finish it. I know what I must do. When we're all free, we'll come to you. We'll kill her together. All of us."
Atsuro reads the letter aloud for Eremi and Taizen's benefit. The kimono. Once they'd figured out its purpose, Atsuro had been hoping to somehow get it back to Natsumi. By the tone of the letter, she seems to think she's dealing with a far more arrogant person than she actually is, but she's given him a way of getting the kimono back to her. He reaches into his pack and takes out the kimono, then takes the tarp and wraps it up. He starts heading for the town center to leave the kimono there. As for the letter, he'll have other members of the team inspect it first, to make sure there's nothing else he should know about it, then burn it. If they don't succeed here, he doesn't want any risk of Natsumi being exposed.