Date: May 20, 2015
Some strange force is literally bugging the patrol falcons of the Hayato, and Miyako and Arika have been sent to investigate.
Land of Wind
Miyako and Arika have been summoned with news far worrying than it at first seems: many of the Hayato birds used to patrol the are around Sunagakure have been returning with parasitic insects, quite like ticks, on them. At first, this seemed to be a medical problem, but then a particularly astute Chuunin noticed something peculiar: one of the bugs had traces of ink on it, ink not found elsewhere on the bird. This suggests the parasite interacted with humans quite recently, and, what's more worrying, this ink is of a particularly chakra-responsive kind.
The response is to use a deceptively low-tier team, a pair of Genin with covert powers, on the case. They are to investigate, assess the potential threat and, if possible, neutralise it. It is impressed on them that they should do this while drawing minimal attention.
After retrieving the information from the summons, Miyako would find herself perched atop the village gates with closed white box that appears to be from a local delicacy shop. She hums lightly as she waits for her partner in crime for this mission to come along, scanning the around below around and above for signs of anything interesting, particularly for any more signs of infected birds that might be coming back. Of course, the likelihood of finding one when she wants to is kind of slim.
Well, Gyuki was more inclined to let all the Hayato Falcons suffer. ~It serves them right!~ But Arika wouldn't have it, and the two go on the mission anyway. Ping wanted to go, but it was clear Suna didn't want upper-tier Shinobi coming along, so he was left behind. "Miya-chan!" she calls out cheerfully, skittering over and up with a bit of wind so she can take perch in the woman's back. "What're we gonna do for this?" she wonders, tilting her head.
As Arika sits there, waiting. on the gates, she quite soon sees a bird returning from its patrol. Its owner is waiting nearby, but the birds patrol at high altitudes, so after passing the cliffs that hold the village safe, the bird descends rather steeply towards her.
Hearing that familiar voice, Miyako peers down and grins slightly as Arika scales the walls to perch on her back. "Hey, Ari-chan," she says before looking back ahead. "Well, first we need to spot a bird coming or going and see if it's infected. If it is, we can probably follow its trail to get at least close to whoever's doing this. We're gonna have to be quick, though. Footprints don't last long in the desert." As the bird comes from over the cliff, she blinks, saying, "Look out, Ari-chan. Catch it if you need to."
Arika makes a quick salute and glances at the bird to try and figure out just where it's aiming. Once that's determined, she makes a seal that allows for a shadow clone to poof into existence. Said clone hops off the gates to go find the Hayato, wind being used to increase her speed despite the crowds. "Heeeyyyyy!!!!" she calls to the Falconer. "Can we borrow your partner?" she calls out.
The falcon drops down onto the falconer's glove-clad hand, the human greeting it with a smile. The smile quickly evaporates, changed for confusion, as she's addressed, but then she smiles again. The falconer, in this case, is a woman in her late 30s. "Huh? Uh… He's a bit tired. What do you need him for?"
Watching the Shadow Clone go after the woman, Miyako smirks slightly and says, "You've gotta teach me how to do that some time. That or I need to make a better version of a Sand Clone." While the clone talks with the woman, she opens the box to reveal it's filled with dango sticks, of which she retrieves two, one to hand to Arika and one to eat herself.
Arika perks up at the food and takes one of the sticks, eating it happily as she waits for a sort of news report from the falconer. "Well, you can come with. Me and my friend just wanna give him a quick checkup to see if he picked up anything. You know the creepy rumors about weird parasites latching onto messenger hawks and stuff? It should only take some standing around!" She nods lightly and then points to a spot. "We should go somewhere less noisy and crowded, first. Cuz it's hard to find buggies with all sorts of noise."
The woman glances at the bird, then Arika, with a frown. "Weird parasites? Uhh… Well… Yes, it'd probably be best to check, then." She agrees, throwing the bird a worried look as it starts to clean its feathers regally. "Let's go."
Moving over to an alley with the woman and Arika (and her clone?), Miyako nods to the woman and places a hand over the bird. Bits of sand fleck off her hands, moving into the folds of the birds feathers to move painlessly around and try to find any sign of parasites while she scans it over with her eyes as well.
Looking over the bird, the both of them find one of these insects quite soon. Much like the other creatures found, it has an engorged, swollen body, still slowly swelling with the blood of the bird. The falconer, holding her bird companion at arm's length for them to examine it, hasn't noticed it yet.
Arika sends air through the bird's feathers, checking to see if there's anything that doesn't feel like it should. Of course, that's not 100% accurate, so she also looks at it. The girl frowns at the insect they find, and she pokes Miyako a bit to point it out. The clone is the one with the pair, the real Arika taking perch on a roof so that she doesn't startle the older woman
"You need to get him to your clan medics," Miyako says as she looks back up to the Hayato woman, frowning slightly. "It's not too serious, but you'd do well to treat sooner rather than later. Can you tell us what his flight pattern was? If you can tell us where he went, we can stop this from happening again."
The Hayato gives Miyako a concerned look, but then glances at the bird and nods. "Well, normally I shouldn't be telling you this," she says, uncertainly… "But… since you helped… He was scouting far North of the city. They usually only let experienced scouts go that far, you see." The woman fondly strokes the bird. "Officially, sector 0-13."
Arika looks to Miyako, or rather, the clone does, and then the gaze is back on the woman. "We're gonna go explore, too. Good luck at the hospital!" She proceeds to dash off, hopefully with Miyako in tow, until they reach the village gates, upon which the clone disappears and Arika lands on Miyako's back. "So, are we gonna explore? Oe just report this?" she wonders, head tilting.
Once the woman has walked off, Miyako looks up at Arika as she lands on her back, grinning up at her. "We're gonna go check it out, of course." With that she turns and starts to head out of the village. Once they're a good few paces out, she brings her hands into a seal, one she'd normally use for creating a Sand Clone, except this one raises up in the form of a hawk similar to the one that just came out and flies out in the same direction to follow the pattern of the real one in hopes to draw their enemy out while the two trail behind it.
The hawk flies far ahead of the two - it takes the hawk slightly over twenty minutes to get there, and by that time the girls have fallen behind quite a bit - but, Miyako senses that something odd is happening to her creation: the air currents on which it soars briefly become unstable, uneven, forcing it to drop slightly before it can rise to scouting level again.
Arika peeks over at Miyako's sand hawk curiously as it takes off, making a seal to try and follow the air currents that it flies along. However, it eventually gets out of range, so she has to rely on Miyako's senses. "Nnnn… What d'you feel, Miya-chan? Anything interesting?" she wonders, wishing she could do something just a bit more than what she can do.
As the 'hawk' is suddenly shoved down, Miyako blinks and narrows her eyes slightly. So that adds wind along with some kind of weird ink and the parasites. Whoever they're dealing with is either at least a small group or one person with a lot of stength. "Something's pushing it down," she notes a bit seriously, though she doesn't change their pace just yet so as not to give off the clue that they're trailing the sand creation to whoever's trying to harm it.
By the time the girls catch up to the hawk, the brief odd turbulence that caused it to lose altitude is over again, and it's soaring, quite unharmed as far as Miyako can see, quite harmlessly overhead. In fact, had Miyako not sensed it herself, there would be no reason whatsoever to expect any sort of turbulence would've happened here: the desert seems calm and unending as only a desert can.
Arika frowns a bit, but continues to go along with Miyako. At some point, she would scramble off the sand user's back and look around a bit, keeping up with wind aiding her steps. "Shouldn't we hurry up a bit? Or maybe…" She hums, wondering if a clone could take flight… The girl makes a seal, and a second Arika appears, this one transforming into a small lizard that takes perch on the original's shoulder. "Can you drop my clone on your hawk?" she asks.
Now that the hawk is flying unimpeded, Miyako squints her eyes slightly. Either someone noticed that the hawk wasn't real, or the insect transfer is just that easy for them, which is disturbing in and of itself. This might get heavy. "Time for a-Wait!" Well, too late… Arika revealed that they're shinobi by creating a clone in the middle of their trek behind the hawk. "I know you're just a Genin, but don't go off flinging jutsu like that without a thought. You may've just cost us this mission." With that she closes her eyes, trying to feel out through all the sand around them to find a trace of anyone that may now be hauling tail away from the scene or hiding.
Miyako doesn't sense anyone, which is disappointing. What she does sense is some-thing-: a trail where the sand has been disturbed by feet and. Even now, when the wind has erased any visible traces, her ability to determine the sand's finer details allows her to sense where it has been disturbed more recently. And so, they have a heading for someone who was here recently, certainly when their hawk was still here, but has since up pulled up proverbial stakes and fled further north yet, out of the village's patrolled area.
Arika pouts a bit. "It was just an idea…" But she understands Miyako's reasoning at least. Still, her own senses didn't detect anyone around them, and she was pretty sure that a person in the desert would stick out like a sore thumb. It's flat. Ish.
"Well, darn," Miyako grumbles, peering back at Arika tentatively. "This is going to be dangerous now that he knows we're here because of where he's going, but this guy has to be stopped. If you want to turn be safe, it might be best you head back toward the village and tell them what's going on… But I'm going after him." With that a platform of sand rips up from under her feet. If she wants to, Arika would be allowed to remain on her back, but she clearly doesn't have long to make the choice as the platform rockets off in the direction the basically invisible footprints lead her.
Arika doesn't want to leave Miyako by herself! The girl opts to tag along, and she ends up clinging to the older genin when they start rising. She wasn't any stranger to that, at least, as the platform had been used as a great escape mechanism during the one run-in with the red mists.
The chase goes on for a long period of time: Miyako still senses the trail in the sand, but whoever's leaving it is moving almost as fast as the girls are, continually eluding them as they move further and further North. After a few hours, they notice a figure in the distance, propelling itself with blasts of air, but then they enter a more mountainous area, where the rock makes Miyako's sensation of sand less reliable. The figure begins gaining ground again, and the pair even briefly lose them before finding their trail again as it leads into a cavern. While Miyako is focused on the chase, Arika has a chance to glance around, and as she glances around, she notices that, as they rush past a stone outcropping, several ticks are travelling the same way.
Miyako grits her teeth a bit as they continue racing after the man, determined that this is going to end today. One thing she doesn't want to do is go back to Sunagakure empty-handed. "Let me know if you spot something I don't, Ari-chan… We can't let this jerk get away now that we're out here." Of course, this begs this question of if this guy's actually alone…. As she spots the cavern, there's a look of slight hesitation before the platforms rockets into it with continued momentum.
Arika frowns lightly when it seems that the person goes into the cavern, the girl frowning even more. "I think if we keep going, we'll end up in the Land of Earth… Or close to it… We should prolly stop chasing him at some point…" A small sigh, though, as she doesn't want to go back empty handed either. She makes a seal, checking for disturbances in the air within the cavern. "…" She says nothing as she attempts to concentrate, just thinking idly to herself as she considers whether or not they should continue. But Miyako makes the decision for them by bringing them deeper. Arika flicks her clone off her shoulder, the lizard going flying (whee!) so it can skitter back to Suna or an outcropping with Suna-nin for a brief report.
The cavern greets the girls with stygian darkness, with nothing but the wind's currents to guide them. Suddenly, a bright flash of light greets them from beneath. The light solidifies into a barrier they smack into quite uncomfortably, locking them in.
In the light of the seal barrier surrounding them, they see that they are in a small but well-furnished cave, their host -a woman who might be in her late 20s, but is haggard an unkempt-looking enough to look past 40 at first glance- sitting in a comfortable armchair, her hands folded in seals.
If the barrier is a problem, then the next step is a greater one: the woman forms several seals and small seals dotting the the ground light up, reaching upwards with immaterial, unerring tendrils. The woman grins predatorily. "Ah, you Arika. You know… surprisingly much. Such an innocent child. And the ancient font- no, fonts. Two!" Their captor exclaims in surprise as she turns to Miyako, now. "Ho-ho-ho what a -treat-! This will be valuable indeed…" A pause falls. "…Keiko."
Arika shifts uncomfortably at the old woman's appearance. She wouldn't have guessed that the woman was only half that appeared age, but the longer she looked, the younger the lady seemed. Arika frowns when she starts talking, wondering just what…. This lady was rambling about. 'Keiko..?' echoes through her mind, Arika forgetting, if she even knew, that Miyako used to be Keiko. ~I don't like this…~ rumbles Gyuki, and Arika's chakra spikes up without her even wanting it to.
The woman turns to Arika, the seals glowing brighter and brighter, filling the room with an even red glow. "Oh, yes, you didn't know!" The woman cackles. It's a statement, not a question. She gets up and moves towards the barrier a few steps. "And you, little girl. Do you know how you parents died? Do you know whose hands are steeped in their blood? Do you even care?"
Arika feels a chill go through her body, the woman's words striking a chord of the girl's. "It's cuz of a thing like Hachi-jii, is all I know. I dunno if I wanna know who it is… And if I find out, then I'll find the person and see just what happened." But … There's a feeling she can't really shake; the woman clearly knows more than meets the eye. And the fact that she was so easily able to read into the past… sound so certain. She was either some sort of snoop with access to high-end files or something else… Arika didn't waste much time in trying to break the seal barrier, winds whipping up despite there not being any real source. Arika just needed to have a little bit so the edges of the invisible blades could assault the shield.
The woman doesn't seem to need to see the blades. Already halfway through Arika's jutsu, the barrier strengthens where she intends for the blades to impact, as if the woman knows what Ariak will be doing before she does. Despite this, as the blades crash into the barrier, it cracks visibly, surprising the woman.
Arika can feel the blades of wind starting to pierce their way through the shield that was formed, and Gyuki quickly, without her asking, backs her up. Apparently he's not a fan of this mind-reader, either, seeing as she knows too much. The wind gets stronger as Arika sucks in a breath and exhales, wind concentrating on a single spot as she tries to take down the woman. A faint cloak of chakra forms around her in the process, revealing two purple 'tails' behind the girl swishing lightly and also prodding at the barrier, as if to poke through it and help grab the mystery mind reader.
As the two, girl and Bijuu, come more in synch, the woman's ability to predict their attacks seems hampered. She hesitates, and that hesitation costs her dearly: the sphere of air bursts through the barrier, and, leaving a trail of shards that dissipate into nothingness, piercess the woman's heart, killing her on the spot. The barrier and the ominous red glow from the seals -now, vanishing- disappear, cloaking the room in darkness again. Before it goes entirely dark, however, Miyako notices an interesting item lying in the corner: a chip from a casino she would once have considered a competitor.
When Arika's clone returns, with some higher-ranking support (and light), the fruits of several weeks of study are found. The woman's techniques, particularly the way she could read the mind of anything from bugs to people and even Bijuu, seem to have perished with her, however.