Date: December 13, 2015
Atsuro and Kenta search a bandit-filled forest for medicinal mushrooms.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
Land of Fire Wilderness
A fishing village in the Land of Fire has just encountered two strokes of bad fortune. First, a haul of some tainted fish has resulted in an outbreak of the disease known as fisher's shivers. Second, the mushrooms required for an otherwise simple treatment grow only in an area of rough terrain and even rougher bandits. Anyone who goes to retrieve the medicine will find themselves contending with all manner of criminal. This is beyond the capabilities of a single small village, and so they've asked for Konoha's aid.
Kenta, Atsuro, and Taizen find themselves standing on a lightly wooded slope overlooking the valley where the mushrooms grow. Situated between two major trading routes, it's also an ideal hiding place for robbers of the most barbaric sort. From here, there's no way to see exactly where they are either. "What sort of places will we find these mushrooms?" Atsuro asks Kenta, holding a hand over his eyes to block the sun as he looks out over the valley.
Kenta's brows furrow as he recalls everything he has read about the mushrooms in question. It had taken a whole day of research before he learned everything he needed to combat the disease they're trying to treat. "Ummm… It's a type of jelly mushroom that grows high up in the tree, usually where branches grow out of the trunk. Moisture and nutrients collect there in the right balance for the mushrooms to grow. I don't know how they smell, but they're black with a fuzzy underside and a very slick black upside." The young man glances around the area warily. "It's supposed to be pretty plentiful, but most people don't harvest it because of the bandits. Luckily, we have you two. You'll handle the bandits without even blinking."
"So we should stick to the trees," Atsuro says, "But seeing them might be a problem. if they're black, then they'll be hard to spot in a dark forest." Taizen speaks up, "We should stay in the trees if we can. That will make it easier to find the mushrooms and avoid bandits." Atsuro nods, "Sounds good to me. Any reason that wouldn't work, Kenta?" He looks around for a moment then spots a shallow furrow in the ground leading further down into the valley. "Must be a stream or something," he suggests, "Let's head down that way and hopefully avoid anyone spotting us." Kenta has a point, but there's no sense in underestimating the bandits.
Kenta nods his head up and down. "We should be careful and stay hidden. I know it'll drain our chakra, but I think it's best to not talk out loud anymore either." The young man closes his eyes briefly to focus his chakra. After a second, his eyes pop back open and he begins to make a very familiar set of hand seals. Then, an equally familiar sensation of another mind brush up against Atsuro's and Taizen's as Kenta tries to establish a telepathic link between all of them.
Atsuro nods as Kenta suggests using telepathy, and once he feels the link established, thinks to himself, «Can you hear me, Kenta?» He waves for Taizen and Kenta to follow and starts heading toward the furrow he pointed out before, alternating between darting from bush to bush and crawling through tall grasses until he can duck down into the fissure, planting his feet beside a small creek which drips and babbles down towards the lower part of the valley. He follows the strea, staying hunched over and stepping carefully until they reach the bottom.
As they near the bottom of the valley, the furrow becomes progressively shallower and they come to a denser patch of trees, where the canopy lets only the occasional sliver of sunlight in. Atsuro lifts his nose in the air and sniffs a couple times, then points to a nearby tree. «Let's get up there and take a look around.» He hops up to one of the sturdier branches, followed by Taizen.
«I can hear you fine, Atsuro-senpai» Kenta replies before he starts on after Atsuro. Since they're trying to be extra stealthy and he's nowhere near as good as the Inuzuka, he decides to bring out some extra help. It'll be another drain on his chakra, but it's more important to harvest enough mushrooms for medicine and head straight back to Konoha. Things will be worse than a little chakra drain if they get delayed by bandits, no matter how well the Jounin Commander and Taizen can handle those. Kenta brushes his fingers against a seal sewn into his cloak. Channeling some chakra into it causes a cloaking field to instantly wrap around his form, so that he disappears from most senses. «I'll be right behind you, Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai» he informs them while he follows them along the stream, down into the valley and up into the trees.
Atsuro jumps to the next branch, then to another, moving slowly through the trees so as not to miss a mushroom, or any bandits that might be close. They work their way through the forest this way, moving deeper and deeper into the valley. It's perhaps inevitable that they'd run into trouble sooner or later. «Hold on,» Atsuro thinks, «Smoke.» He stays still on his branch for a moment, gesturing for Taizen and Kenta to do the same. After the movement has stopped, they can faintly hear voices to the north of them.
Atsuro begins turning so that they can simply skirt around, but Taizen stops him, «Is that one of the mushrooms, Kenta?» He gestures with his nose towards a small black mass on the underside of one bough, tucked in just at the collar of the branch.
The invisible medic-nin follows Taizen's gesture. «I think so, but I have to get closer to check, since there's so little light in this forest. There are a few types of jelly mushroom here, so we'll waste space in my pack if we bring back the wrong ones.» Kenta sniffs the air with his decidedly non-Inuzuka nose. «Umm… Since I'm concealed, maybe I should be the one to go check it out. That smoke might be bandits. I think it's less likely that they'll be able to see through my jutsu.» There's a pause as Kenta considers other factors. «Do you know if there are any traps here? Even if they can't see us, we might trigger traps by mistake if we're not careful.»
«Stay where you are,» Atsuro instructs, «I'll check for traps.» He hops over a couple of branches. The mushroom is a little closer to where the bandits seem to be, but they're still a ways off. Atsuro sniffs the air a couple of times as he looks the area over. «I think it's okay.» He jumps over to where the mushroom is and pulls it off the tree, then jumps back and waves Kenta over, holding the mushroom out for him.
The mushroom is in Atsuro's hand one second and disappears the next. Kenta's cloaking shield wraps around the squishy object as soon as he takes hold of it. Unseen by the two Inuzuka, the medic-nin brings the mushroom up to his nose. He might not know how the mushroom should smell like, not exactly, but he knows what it -shouldn't- smell like. The next test is to check both the underside and the surface of the mushroom for the right textures. When that also proves to be fine, Kenta breaks off a little bit of the mushroom and pops it into his mouth for a quick chew. The mild tingling on his tongue tells him that it contains the compounds that he needs. «It's the right mushroom. we need to find more. It'll take at least five pounds to make the medicine.»
«And that one weigh, like, an eight of a pound?» Atsuro frowns. «Maybe we can find a cluster of them or something like that.» He holds out a hand, «Can you give me a piece and I'll see if I can smell anything distinctive? If we can smell for it, that would make it a lot easier to find.» He looks at the tree where the mushroom was and its surroundings. Maybe they can find somewhere with the ideal growing conditions too.
Kenta breaks off another small piece of the mushroom and drops it into Atsuro's palm. It seemingly materializes out of midair. Then, he places the remainder of the mushroom into the a backpack that he's carrying. Since it takes up so much room, Kenta had just stuck to the bare essentials that he can stuff into his many pockets, pouches and his medical hip pack. «I think we'll find more as we go even deeper into the woods. These mushrooms like dark and damp places. Old growth trees are also much better than new growth.»
Atsuro holds the piece near his nose and takes a sniff, eyes closed. «That'll help,» he confirms. He hops over to Taizen's branch and holds the piece out for the dog to sniff before jumping back to Kenta and holding it out for the invisible mednin to take. «Smells more damp over that way.» He points in a direction leading deeper into the forest. Once they're ready, he starts leading them in that direction again.
They keep going, having to take a small detour once to avoid a couple of bandits walking down a faint path through the forest. But Atsuro and Taizen are able to skirt around them and Kenta, being invisible, can't even be spotted by them. Atsuro stops as they reach a distinctly different area with older looking trees. A few parts of the ground look muddy as well. «Damp and old.» But then Taizen speaks up. «I smell some mushrooms to the north,» he says, «But I also smell people in that direction.»
Kenta inspects the area they're in. «The ground's a little too damp. I wonder if it rained the previous night. That's good though, because fungi usually grow spontaneously after a warm rain. Umm… I guess it's not -that- warm anymore, but it's still within the range of temperatures that these mushrooms need to grow.»
The medic-nin jogs up his tree to perch on one of the higher branches. Despite his invisibility, some autumn leaves flutter off as a result of his moments. The odd thing is that they look like they're still on the branch until Kenta passes, but suddenly disconnects a few feet under the branch, like someone teleported them partway before they fall. The cloak isn't perfect, though still very useful. «My eyes aren't good enough to see anything different to the north, Taizen-senpai. If there's people in that direction, it'll be more dangerous, but we might have to check it out, since you don't smell mushrooms from any other direction.»
With Kenta's input given, Atsuro takes a moment to decide. «We'll have to check out the ones near the bandits. The more timid we are about getting mushrooms, the deeper we'll have to go to find ones in safe spots—which just puts us in more danger anyway. If we do it like this, we risk one group of bandits but we don't have to deal with three others.» He starts heading in the direction Taizen indicated.
Atsuro stops a good way back from the camp, but they can see the smoke of a campfire and hear the chattering of perhaps a dozen men. Atsuro points to a couple of mushrooms on the periphery of the camp that can be retrieved safely enough. But there's also a tree much closer to the fire which is anchoring several tarpaulins the men are using for shelter. And under several of its branches are fat and juicy mushrooms of exactly the kind the ninja are looking for. «Any plans?» Atsuro asks.
Kenta's brows furrows as he inspects the camp. «Ummm… we'll have to harvest the ones are the perimeter of the camp first, after we make sure that there's no scouts too close to those trees.» The medic-nin's mind works fast as he considers what else they need to do. «There's enough for at least a quarter of the mushrooms needed for the medicine here. But that's only if we pick the ones growing on the tree closest to the fire too. Can you get to that without them seeing you, Atsuro-senpai? That'll be very tricky. I don't know if I can do it well enough even with this cloaking seal active. Umm… If worse comes to worse, I can try to put them all to sleep. I'd take over an animal and send it to get the mushrooms, but anything with dexterous enough paws to do that are also the type of animal that's edible…»
Atsuro gives the problem another moment of consideration. «We should definitely get the ones on that tree then. I can go in and get it. Maybe you and Taizen could wait outside. If I get caught, Tai can bark to draw their attention and you can sneak up and put them to sleep.» He shakes his head, «And don't risk yourself with any animals. This isn't a good place to put yourself in that kind of position.» He looks around the perimeters of the camp. «Do you think you can circle the camp for the other mushrooms? Tai and I can follow you and grab anyone before they sound the alarm if they notice you.»
Kenta starts to nod, but he quickly realizes that Atsuro and Taizen won't be able to see the gesture. «That sounds like a good plan, Atsuro-senpai. I know that the Jounin Commander would be able to think of something to outsmart these bandits» The fact that it's a mental communication just makes the admiration in Kenta's words more obvious. He removes a small black pill from one of his belt pouches and pops it into his mouth. «I'm ready» the young man says after he swallows the pill. «I'm going to go counterclockwise.» Kenta starts to do exactly that. He keeps sending small updates through the telepathic link to make sure that the others know where he is.
For a moment, the response from Atsuro is a swirl of muddled thoughts. But this isn't the time to worry about how worshipful of him Kenta can get, so he quickly replaces it with the message, «Right behind you.» He and Taizen follow behind Kenta, taking cover behind trees and using his scent and his updates to keep up with him. Atsuro once has to send an urgent message to Kenta to stop moving as one of the bandits walks out of the camp to toss an apple core out into the trees. But they keep going, and soon they've circled back around to where they started, several mushrooms richer.
Kenta remains crouched on the branch of the final tree along the perimeter that he harvested mushrooms from. He scans the camp below to see if anything has changed. Of course, the bandits wouldn't have moved all their tents and made it safer to reach the mushrooms directly in the center of camp. «I'm ready for the next phase, Atsuro-senpai. Please be careful. I'll be ready to back you up immediate if anything goes wrong.» Not that his help's really needed. Atsuro can take care of all the bandits with all four limbs bound, blind folded and wearing ear plugs. The gist of this thought bleeds through the link loud and clear.
Atsuro does his best to ignore that again. «Right,» he manages. Then he carefully bounds through the trees, moving around the perimeter of the camp again until he has a clear route to that one tree. With a single jump, he's on the trunk, and stuck to it with chakra. And he's aimed for quite high up in the tree, so as to avoid being spotted. He starts to creep down the tree on the side of the trunk opposite the main camp.
There's a snapping sound from behind the tree. «Weak branch,» comes Atsuro's voice through the link, «How are they responding?» All the men have jumped to their feet and started to look around. One is brandishing a hatchet and starting to wander the camp. Taizen looks over to Kenta, wondering if they ought to start their diversion.
«They're looking around for the cause of the noise now» Kenta informs Atsuro. The young man's eyes roam the area to see if there's any animals he can exploit without possessing too deeply. He doesn't expect to find anything, since the fire and noise from the camp is bound to scare off any larger animals. «We need someone to draw their attention in a different direction. Umm… Taizen-senpai, do you think you can do that? Maybe just pretend to be a big animal crashing through the forest. Maybe you can imitate a wolf's howling, since that should be normal around here.»
With nothing more than «Okay,» Taizen moves swiftly through the woods. Because he's moving fast, a few branches rustle audibly, and several men look over, but the dog is quick enough that he can't be noticed in this shadowy forest. He's soon circled around to the side of the tree where Kenta is, and starts growling loudly and throwing his body into nearby bushes to give the impression that some giant animal is preparing to attack the camp. "Sh-shroom!" yells one of the men. Their attention is all focused on the tree now. Kenta could walk up right behind them and pick their pockets if he wanted to.
Kenta considers. If he knocks everyone out with sleeping mist, they might be suspicious afterwards. But at this time, the bandits are all scared and not thinking too calmly. Maybe if they're scared sufficiently, they'll scatter in all directions. Lone bandits won't be that dangerous, especially if the bandits are so terrified that they'll just run away from noise and mysterious shapes inside to investigate. With his mind made up, Kenta starts making different hand seals than what had originally been planned. He sends his mind out to infiltrate one of the bandit's, so that he can make the man start acting appropriately possessed. Since it technically -is- a possession, the victim would hopefully mistake the source as something less alive and more of an angry spirit.
None of these men are likely to have enountered the Yamanaka jutsu, so the man nearest to Kenta is as easy a target as can be. Kenta quickly has the man yelling and screaming as he waves his arms around. "Whuthecap are ya doin'?" demands one of his comrades. But Taizen isn't going to let them forget about him and tend to the man, and lets loose a deep, howling growl. Atsuro joins in on the chaos and slips down to the base of the tree. Bracing himself against the ground, he uses his incredible strength to push against the trunk so that it can be seen moving higher up, giving a few loud creaks and cracks as well.
"Leave 'im!" another man yells and starts running off into the forest. The others follow suit and charge off every which way. But one man chooses to run over in Kenta's direction.
Kenta presses himself against the trunk of the tree and sends another command through the link he established with the "possessed man". His victim starts chasing after the bandit heading his way while screaming off the top of his lungs to "get out of his forest", which would hopefully spook the approaching bandit too much to look around for intruders. At the same time, Kenta makes the one under the Mind Body Switch jutsu start slapping at his own face even while chasing his comrade.
"Shiro, fer—" The bandit abandons any attempt at talking the man down and takes off into the forest, running by Kenta with out even noticing him, too busy to do anything but move his legs and stop himself from tripping. Despite a few yells from outside the camp now, the actual hideout is totally calm, allowing Atsuro to quickly scale the tree and nab those mushrooms. «Nobody came this way,» he says through the link, «If we head out here, we can probably get away from the camp before they come back.»
Kenta waits until he feels the link he made with the bandit start to strain a little from distance before he drops it. «I think it's going to be a while before they come back for their things. Maybe not even until morning, since ghosts don't usually come out during that time…» Atsuro and Taizen might notice a little nervousness in Kenta's thoughts when he thinks of ghosts. «Ummm… let's head to the next location. We can just make wailing noises if we come upon any of the fleeing bandits and that should get them to leave us alone. Which way, Taizen-senpai?»
«We don't know how much the bandits know about ghosts though,» Atsuro points out, «So it's probably better if we just get moving.» He doesn't ask how it is that /Kenta/ knowsor believesso much about ghosts. He and Taizen jump into the trees nearby, and Atsuro waves for Kenta to join them while Taizen sniffs the air around them. «I smell more,» he says, «This way.» He starts moving through the trees, carefully leading Atsuro and Kenta around the terrified bandits as they exit the vicinity of the camp.
Kenta follows close behind Atsuro and Taizen. His cloaking seal had deactivated while he bent his chakra to the task of possessing the bandit, so he makes sure to reactivate it. It'll probably help him masquerade as a ghost too if they run into any more bandits. «I'm glad that I'm with you two. I know that you would let any ghosts get to me if we meet any. Umm… but I don't think there'd be too many haunted places around here, even though the bandits probably killed plenty of people in this forest.» the young man sends telepathically.
«Have you run into a lot of ghosts lately?» Atsuro asks, bewilderment leaking into his thoughts. He smells the air to stay aware of any bandits while Taizen follows the scent of the mushrooms. He leads them to another stream, right where it spills over a ledge to form a small waterfall, which runs turbulent enough to make the air around it just a bit more damp. Up in the trees nearby are the dark shapes of the mushrooms clinging to their branches.
«Not for a long time. I think the last ghost that I ran into was at least three or four years ago. It was at the Zen Garden…» Kenta's mental voice trails off uneasily as he thinks back to that incident. «That was actually during the daytime, so I might be wrong about daylight banishing ghosts. But maybe it only didn't work because that ghost was very strong.» The medic-nin goes into an uncomfortable silence. He tries to distract himself from the creepy thoughts by burying himself in his work. In short order, more mushrooms have filled his side pack. «Umm… more than half full now.»
«I didn't realize that you'd ever run into ghosts.» Atsuro's brows knit as the thought reaches Kenta. «Let's not worry about ghosts for now. It doesn't seem like this forest is actually haunted.» Maybe it's better not to talk about it with Kenta. It's just upsetting him to no purpose. Atsuro goes and gathers up mushrooms to help Kenta, while Taizen looks and sniffs around to make sure that no bandits can approach without their knowledge. Atsuro hands his mushrooms to Kenta and prepares to move out again. «Good,» he thinks back to Kenta, «Seems like we're making good progress.» He sniffs the air a few times. «More this way,» he tells Kenta, hopping up into a nearby tree and preparing to lead.
Kenta looks around the area. It's good so much darker as they work on gathering mushrooms. There's even a bit of mist starting to wisp around the tree trunks down below. The invisible medic-nin makes sure to stick close to Atsuro and Taizen. Once or twice, he accidentally bumps into them because he's watching out for odd movements. There's probably not many things odder than to have something invisible knock against a person. «Sorry, Taizen-senpai» Kenta utters sheepishly after the latest accident.
«That's okay,» Taizen sends back. Even with Kenta invisible, Atsuro has an idea that something's getting to Kenta. «You okay?» he asks, «Don't worry. We're not going to let you get hurt.» They continue through the woods and come to a curious sight. In this corner of the valley, the trees have been cut down in a semicircular strip, creating a sort of no man's land around a thick patch of old forest. It seems like the trees were cut down as a sort of security measure—it'd be very tough to cross this area without being spotted. «That's where the smell's coming from,» Atsuro says, pointing to the other part of the forest, «And there's bandits in it, of course. You think we can get across without any trouble, or should we look somewhere else?»
Kenta smiles, but it's unseen by the other two. «Umm… thanks, Atsuro-senpai.» Then, he grows more somber when he sees what the older shinobi points out. Kenta leans outwards from his tree to get a better look at the semi-circular strip of cleared land. He keeps one hand stuck to the trunk, along with his feet on the branch, to prevent accidental falling. «Maybe we can go around the cleared area. There sure are a lot of bandits around here. We should send some teams out here to clear them out at some point. As the groups grow bigger, they'll become more dangerous to civilians.»
Atsuro grimaces. «We've thought of it. But it's a tricky mission to justify. Some of the bandits are Missing-nin. And the terrain is hard to navigate and full of hiding places. Their turf. But you have a point—the problem's not going to go away on its own.» At Kenta's suggestion, he starts leading them to the edge of the cut area, where the forest meets up with the slopes of the valley. «They might still be anticipating intruders coming from here,» Atsuro warns as he steps onto the slope, using his chakra to keep him stuck to it, «Keep an eye out for traps.»
Kenta nods his head up and down, but it's unseen again. «Yes, Atsuro-senpai» he follows up with, just so that the other two can hear him. The medic-nin's been maintaining his telepathy jutsu for a long time now, so he's beginning to feel the effects, but it's not nearly strong enough of a drain to incapacitate him. Nevertheless, he makes extra sure to navigate carefully along the valley walls and keep an eye out for traps like Atsuro ordered. Not having to fight bandits will conserve his chakra. «Do either of you smell the bandits?»
At Kenta's question, Atsuro and Taizen both sniff the air a few times. «Yeah,» Atsuro sends back, «A few scattered along the tree line and more further back in the forest. I think they must have a few sentries watching for intruders and then a main camp deeper in.» Fortunately, there's no sentries around when they come down around the forest again. But they do notice traps, of a sort. There are trip wires stringed up all over, leading to bells and old tin cans stringed up to rattle and clank if disturbed. «I can smell a good chunk of mushrooms too,» says Atsuro. He points to the alarms, «How are we gonna get past these?»
Kenta considers the question seriously. «Maybe it's time to consider using sleeping mist to knock out all the sentries. The pill that I swallowed earlier is still in my stomach. Umm… or the poison created by the pill is. My body's going to absorb it soon if I don't expel it, so I might as well do something useful with it to avoid wasting the work put into making the pill.» The medic-nin pauses. «But I bet that you can come up with a better idea, Atsuro-senpai.»
«Hm, no, that actually seems like a pretty good idea to me.» Atsuro begins creeping away from the slopes again, sticking to the very edge of the trees for cover. «It seems like the alarms are here because they can't keep an eye on the whole perimeter. So if we go back in until we find a patrol, you can knock them out, and then we have a way in. Sound good?»
«You're a genius, Atsuro-senpai! Only you can come up with a plan so perfect.» Kenta beams invisibly at the older shinobi. He follows Atsuro's and Taizen's exact path along the slopes. If those two had stepped somewhere without triggering any traps, that means it'll be safe to duplicate exactly what they did. «Umm… since you two have the best noses, I bet you can even tell where the nearest patrol is right now. Just give me a signal when you want me to use my jutsu.»
«It's actually your plan.» Atsuro ducks down behind a tree, gesturing for Taizen to take cover as well. «Think I smell them,» he says, «I'll lure them over to me, and you knock them out whenever you think it's most likely to get them. Here, stay here and I'll try to get them into position.» He slips out from behind the tree and moves so that Kenta and Taizen have a good view over to where he is. Then he hides behind another tree and starts pounding loudly on its trunk. Kenta can hear hurried movement from another direction, the footfalls of two people hurrying over to investigate the tree. Soon, he can see two men brandishing rusty swords come into view.
«That's not true, Atsuro-senpai. I only mentioned sleeping gas and you immediately came up with an entire plan», Kenta corrects the Jounin Commander. He continues to stick close to Atsuro and Taizen until they indicate that he should stay put. It's a few tense minutes waiting for the Inuzuka to lure in the closes bandit patrol. Kenta goes into action soon as he can see the gleam of the rusty swords. «Doing it now!» he warns and makes the hand seals required to convert the poison reserve inside of him to its proper form. Kenta blows a thick plume of white mist at the bandits.
An entire plan entirely based around sleeping gas, Atsuro thinks to himself drily. He glances back at Kenta for a moment, wondering if he actually transmitted that private thought. Of course, he can't actually /see/ Kenta.
When Kenta's warning comes, he stops knocking on the tree and instead takes a quick breath, holding it as the mist washes over the area. He steps away quickly so that he can breath again. He turns around and looks for the bandits again. «You got 'em.»
Kenta sucks in a deep breath. «Umm… we better get moving before they wake up again.» The young man springs forward to check the downed sentry. «They're probably not going to stay this way for long. If they wake up before we're finished and rally the other bandits, we're going to have a hard time leaving again without exhausting ourselves in a fight. Taizen-senpai, can you lead us to the thickest patch of mushrooms that you smell?»
«Follow me,» says Taizen. He sniffs the air and takes off into the forest. Worringly, he leads them closer and closer to the main group of bandits that Atsuro noticed before. They skirt around the main camp, however, and Taizen leads them around tents and patrols to a group of several large trees, loaded up with mushrooms like the one they fought bandits for before. «The motherlode,» Atsuro declares, «This is a pretty sweaty situation though. If we're caught back here, it's gonna be tricky getting out. Your chakra holding up, Kenta?»
Kenta focuses his senses inwards for a second. «I still have plenty, Atsuro-senpai. But we should be careful anyway, just like you said.» The young man pops another black pill, in case he needs to produce more mist to knock out attackers. He couldn't smell all the mushrooms, but he can see enough of the trees to tell that there's plenty for the taking. «Umm… I definitely think that there's enough here to fill up the rest of my pack. Let's hurry and harvest as much as we can.»
«Right,» says Atsuro, «Tai, keep watch. We'll gather the mushrooms.» He starts scaling the nearest tree, grabbing mushrooms from under its branches as he goes. He and Kenta will have to gather from three trees, but there's plenty of mushrooms between them. Taizen hides nearby, sniffing the air to make sure that nobody's coming.
Kenta quickly climbs up one of the trees. He goes all the way to the top first, deciding that he'll do a top down approach to his mushroom gathering. Mushroom after mushroom goes into his side pack. They individually don't weigh much, but Kenta can feel how full the containers getting after finishing harvesting mushrooms from half of his tree. He hurries up completing the one assigned to him and send a quick mental picture of which part of the next tree he's taking before he jumps over to it. That way, there won't be risk of Atsuro trying to go for the same spots on the same tree and taking up valuable time.
With Kenta's clever coordination of the work between them, they're able to gather up the mushrooms with decent efficiency. Soon, the trees are stripped of mushrooms, and Atsuro is standing at their base, hands cupped together to hold all the mushrooms he picked, waiting for Kenta to grab them too. Taizen lifts his nose up and his nostrils twitch a couple of times. «The patrol Kenta knocked out is coming back to camp.»
The mushrooms in Atsuro's hands disappear one by one as Kenta grabs them to stick into his bulging pack. «Uh oh. We better get going. We don't want them to catch us in here. Taizen-senpai, you're eyes work the best in the dark. Do you think you can lead us out of here quickly?» Kenta's already sure of the answer, but he asks just in case. He places a hand on his stomach, over where the reserve of sleeping poisons is held inside of him. «I don't have as many supplies as usual, so there's a limit to how many times I can use my jutsu.»
«Yes.» Taizen waits until Kenta has gathered up all of Atsuro's mushrooms, then takes off through the forest, tracing the route they took before at a somewhat faster pace than they took before. They've reached the thickest part of the wood by the time there's a major uproar in the camp, but they can hear voices calling from that direction—not for them specifically at this point, but more to gather bandits and get ready to find intruders.
Despite the uproar, Kenta's not too worried. Everything seems to be going well so far, so he's mostly sure that they'll make it out of the woods unscathed. Being hardened shinobi, they'd have a big advantage in speed and stamina. The biggest problem would be the missing-nin that became bandits, but Kenta finds it unlikely there'll be any sensors among a group that equip themselves with equipment as poor as rusted swords.
The sound from the camp dies down as the bandits begin to fan out and search the forest. Fortunately, the three ninja are well ahead of them by now. They've reached area of felled trees. They still have a couple minutes before anyone reaches them fortunately. «Do we go back the way we came?» Atsuro asks, «Or should we just forget about stealth and start running?» He gestures out over the scattered logs and stumps.
«Ummm… back the way we came, but as fast as we can. Since we already went through that area, we know what all the dangers are. It'll be even slower for us if we have to find a new route and end up hitting traps» Kenta immediately replies. The sounds behind them are getting slightly more worrisome, but Kenta's still not too concerned yet. «I know that you can just trace our sent all the way from here to the first camp and then out of the forest.»
«Okay,» says Atsuro, taking the lead, «If you fall behind, tell us right away.» There's a short pause as he starts to trace their way back towards the slopes. «Not that I don't think you're capable. Just that we can't see you. We can't get split up right now.» He and Taizen take a quick pace back to the slops, skirting around the alarms they discovered before, then they walk up using chakra-walking, heading back over to the other side.
Kenta continues to follow Taizen and Atsuro exactly. «Don't worry, Atsuro-senpai. I won't fall behind. I know that I'm not as fast and strong as you are, but I've been training a lot.» It's an understatement, the training comment, but Atsuro probably knew that already. As long as the Inuzuka don't go all out, Kenta should be able to keep up fine. The medic-nin also sends out faint pulses of medical chakra every so often to get a biometric reading on their surroundings. There's always the highly unlikely possibility that something's hidden well enough from Inuzuka senses that it'll take medical ninjutsu to detect.
Kenta's sensing indicates that the bandits are still a way behind them yet. The three of them run across the slope at high speed, moving up and over the cleared area until they come down to the forest again on the other side. Finally, Atsuro leads them into the trees and looks out across the fallen logs. «There's a few moving out into the clearing,» he notes, «But it looks like they haven't spotted us yet. I think if we get a little deeper into the forest, we're home free. We can check how we're doing for mushrooms then and maybe leave this valley altogether.»
Kenta pats his pack firmly. The slapping sound is loud to his own ears, but completely muffled by his cloaking jutsu, making it audible only to the sharpest of ears at close range. «Umm… I definitely have enough mushrooms. This pack can't carry much more. There's no need to linger in this forest any longer than necessary. Let's head for Konoha as soon as we shake off these bandits. I want to start working on the medicine right away.» He's probably not kidding either. Knowing Kenta, the medic-nin would start the task as soon as they return to the village and not a second later.
«Got it.» Atsuro jumps up into the closest tree, «We'll retrace our steps back to where we entered, then we're outta here.» As soon as Kenta and Taizen are ready to follow, he takes off through the forest, following the groups scent trail back through the forest, up the slope, and out of the valley. And evading any groups of bandits they might spot, of course. Now all they need to do is get home and work on that medicine.