Date: July 24th, 2010
An investigation into an undefined "phenomenon" in the desert of the Land of Wind leads to an unexpected and unfortunate change of scenery, as well as seeing some very >familiar< faces…
"Mirror Mirror - Northern Lights"
Snowy Fields - Unknown
The mission to recover the Kinjutsu Scroll has been over for at least a couple weeks now. Everyone has had time to return home, to recover physically and mentally, and perhaps even to train and become stronger -- or at least start working on a new technique or two. Now Team 01 has been sent on a new mission. There is surprisingly little information available to the Team Leader, Ruri, when she receives the Mission Writ. The objective may >appear< simple, but by this point everyone on this team should know that simple missions almost never are. Even D-Ranks can become complicated >very< quickly. This, however, is just bizarre. The mission description is thus:
Client: Sunagakure Council
Descriptor: There is an odd phenomenon occurring in the desert, approximately 158 miles to the north-east of Sunagakure.
Objective: Fully investigate the phenomenon, and if it requires intervention then resolve the phenomenon.
That's it. And so it is that Team 01 has spent hours travelling through the desert, into the deadest, most inhospitable and uninhabited part of the Land of Wind's deserts, with no clear idea of what exactly it is they are looking for, or what they may be expected to do about it if they find it. Presumably they'll recognize it when they see it, or else this mission would be impossible to complete with so little information.
Kara travels with everyone else, a leather harness with largish scrolls inserted into two of its ten slots worn on her shoulders. No reason to lug around Pharaoh in his non-stored state with this much distance to cover. It would just tire her out a bit faster, and she doesn't really need that kind of strain when she doesn't know what to expect. As a Land of Wind native, who originates from a nomadic tribe, Kara is accustomed to the desert. That doesn't mean she's impervious to the sweltering heat, the glaring sun above in the sky, or the extra difficulties involved in trying to walk on a surface that shifts unstably and gives slightly with every step. "This mission is awesome so far, huh?" she asks sarcastically.
The dark-skinned woman seems to be a bit less cheerful than usual. Infact, she is almost >volatile< and has been the entire trip, though thankfully she has kept quiet for most of it. There's a reason for this. A biological reason, that the other three members of the team may or may not be sharing, depending on if they spend enough time around the other females of the team to have 'synchronized'. Scowling, Kara peers out at the endless sand dunes stretching out before her. There's no sign of any 'phenomenon' that she can recognize, and they're in the area that the supposed objective was supposed to be present in.
"I say give it another hour, and if we haven't found anything by that time, we go home and tell the person who assigned us this mission to drop dead. Who's with me?" Kara's words are no sooner out of her mouth, when something odd occurs. As the team continues moving along -- walking or ninja-running -- the sky begins to darken and the temperature drops noticeably. The sun can still be seen, but it has dimmed considerably. More immediately noticeable are the wide variety of shimmering colors that have appeared in the now night-time dark heavens above. It's like some mighty god put several rainbows in the sky and commanded them to dance.
Kara, despite her foul mood, is entranced by the display, having never seen anything like it. "…What the--What >is< this?" It's beautiful, whatever it is. Even if it's out of place here in the desert, this aurora borealis is quite a treat to the eyes. It's also almost definitely the 'phenomenon' they were supposed to investigate.
The worst part about living in the desert was the constant need for water. And when one consumed about four times the normal quantity required by a human being, this problem tended to be multiplied by that same factor of four! Rinako had already consumed four of the large canteens she'd brought with her, and was now in the midst of downing the last dregs out of her fifth and last. Once this is done, the jinchuriki groans miserably, shakes it once to be sure it's empty, then simply drops it into the sand with a groan of despair.
"Why couldn't we come out at night? It's hot… I'm dehydrating… Can I have some of your water?"
This string of complaints and questions would repeat, in more or less similar form, every twenty minutes or so after their first hour of travel. Every team member would be hit up for 'just a sip' of their water at least twice, and any who actually gave in to the elder Rurohashi sister's pleadings would soon find their drinking water vanishing very rapidly. Thankfully, she didn't have much to carry about, or the complaints as to the heat and sun would only have been increased.
"If we have to walk all the way home after finding nothing… Let's just find some shade and take a- *YAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN* -nap. I hear you sweat less in your sleep."
But then the dancing lights begin to play across the sky, as if someone had shut off the switch that controlled the sun, and lowered a great big disco ball out of the sky, causing this weird party glow to dominate the dimmed landscape. The dark-haired kunoichi grinds her steps to a halt, straightening from her slouched-over walking position of self-pity, wide brown eyes looking at the multi-hued illumination as she wipes a line of sweat from her brow with her thumb.
"We weren't sent her to shut out some lights?"
Shemri is feeling a touch grouchy too, though for a different reason. Ever since reading the mission report, she has inexplicably had this strange tune running through her head and she can't get it out. Phenomena (doo doooo doodoodoo!)…phenomena (doo doodoo doo!)…phenomena o.o; (doo dooo dedoodoo, dedoodoo, dedoodoodoodoodoo doo doo dooooo doo!). Yeah, it's driving her up the wall. >.<; So much so that she eventually starts imagining these little pink critters with horns doing the singing. o.O; She doesn't know whether to laugh or scream, and with her team-mates right there, she has to hold both in. #x.x# Oh, and now what!? A Technicolor laser show in the sky?! What's next, a flying eleph--
"Eh? You see it too?" Shemri blinks. The pink critters are gone and the soundtrack has stopped (for now), but the strange effect in the sky remains, and everyone seems to be staring at it. Shemri clears her throat. "Ah. Aha. I thought at first it might be a mirage." -.-;
Ruri spent all of yesterday in the hospital, as well as most of the night on the day prior. Something had happened during a training session with her sister. Something BAD. And yet, despite Chakra-exhaustion, soreness throughout her body, and irritated flesh around her right eye, she was not actually INJURED per se. After resting for an entire day, and the doctors saying they couldn't really do anything for her based on what Rinako had said the problem was, Ruri had left the hospital and gone home -- just in time to lead a mission the next day (today).
Though no less pleased with the environment than anyone else, Ruri's mind is somewhat occupied. Not even her sister's whining or Kara's bitchiness penetrates her thoughts. She is supposed to be the smart one of this group. That means she can't leave well-enough alone. She can't ignore problems and hope they go away. She has to investigate, she has to understand, and she has to solve all the mysteries presented to her. But when the temperature swiftly declines, and the light begins to fade, awareness floods her suddenly.
Ruri looks comes to a halt and gazes at the sky with her left eye, the right covered as is usual these days. She hasn't seen this in person before, but she has read about it and seen pictures. Even so, though a picture may be worth a thousand words, an experience is priceless. She had never expected the Northern Lights to be so amazing.
Nor had she expected to encounter them in the desert. An aurora borealis in strange places is very rare, but not unheard of. However, temperature shifts and untimely darkness accompanying an aurora IS unheard of. Ruri is willing to lay money on the possibility that this is not natural. "Very pretty, but also very out of place. For those unaware, this is called an aurora borealis, or the 'Northern Lights'. As the name indicates, it's usually found in the north -- the DISTANT north. Like 'the arctic' north. I don't think this is supposed to be here. And I wager that why it's here is what we're supposed to be figuring out."
The Team Leader crosses her arms over her chest and looks thoughtfully at the display in the sky with everyone else for a few seconds. Business is business, but it's unlikely that anyone on this team will see something like this again in her lifetime. Eventually, however, she drags her gaze down to desert, and begins scanning for any clues or signs of what might be causing this -- assuming, of course, that whatever is causing it is on the land, and not something bizarre like an airborne prismatic gas weapon that is being tested or something.
Kara blinks. She may have heard the name 'Northern Lights' somewhere before… Maybe. But she hadn't really attached any meaning to it, if so. At Ruri's explanation, she is silent for a moment. "…." Then she shrugs. "Huh. Well, I'm not sure what we can do. They're lights in the sky. I mean, I guess I could use Pharaoh-kun's Papyrus Reed Boat and try to fly up there, but I somehow doubt that would actually accomplish anything. It might be so high up that we'd wind up flying into space! …If I could even make that happen. I'd probably run out of Chakra before then. Not to mention that weird lights aren't going to react overly to us flying into them, even if the phenomenon itself is within range."
She scratches her cheek with one finger, thoughtfully. Hmmmmmm. "Well, at least it's not so stupidly hot anymore. It's almost pleasant, actually!" Kara may be distracted by trivial things like striating colors in the sky, and drastic temperature changes, but at least Ruri is on top of things. As the Team Leader looks around, she would notice that there's a line of bright green situated along the horizon, in the distance. Anyone else who looks that way would notice the same thing. This is >not< in the sky, and thus is >not< part of the aurora borealis. Where did all this green come from in the desert!? Is it some kind of tropical oasis or something? If so, maybe Rinako can refill her canteens!
If the team chooses to head in that direction, the temperature continues to descend, and the sky continues to darken until the sun is no longer visible at all. The borealis remains either way -- except in the instance of the team turning around and going back the way they came.
"Mm." Rinako eyes the dancing lights for several long, silent moments, a serious, if deadpanned, expression on her face for once. After a moment, she lifts a shoulder, still watching the colors move, as if fully expecting they might try to strike at the group at any moment. "It can't be some kind of jutsu, right? Something this big and visible would be about the worst technique ever. You think it might be some kind of distraction? A genjutsu meant to lure us out here and trap us for ambush or capture?"
The elder of the two siblings, however, was notably NOT on top of things, still staring at the big, bright, obvious lights in the sky rather than looking about them for clues of some sort, though she does pause long enough to turn her eyes to Kara. "Don't start celebrating and tossing on the layers just yet, Kar. You might really be sitting in the sand, drooling, as the heat bears down on you. Why can't anything ever be simple? 'Go here, smash this.' Just once I'd like a mission that didn't require all this investigating."
Rubbing at the back of her neck, the older of the two twins looks first at Shemri, then finally at her sister, as if silently asking for a clue on what they should be doing now. Seeing Ruri starting to root around for clues, Rinako begins to do likewise, first looking at their immediate surroundings, then beginning to survey in an ever-widening circle, as if she expected the solution to their problem to pop out of the sand.
Shemri tilts her head. "Ah. Aha. If it is something you already know of, perhaps you know what causes this phenomenon?" (Doo doooo doo--augh! >.<;) Shemri shakes her head briefly, then looks to the horizon. "Well, whatever it is, I expect the easiest way to learn more would be to get closer. Shiikaa, do you sense anything?" Shiikaa tilts his head much like Shemri did, then mrowls. Little bit of a salty smell, but other than that…nothing you humans wouldn't sense too. Maybe as they move on.
Ruri notices that line of green. 'Vegetation? Trees?' She isn't quite sure what it is at this point. She doesn't have as sharp of a nose as Shiikaa, so doesn't pick up on the salt scent. She answers Shemri's question with, "Not really. It has been awhile since I read about them. I know magnetic fields have something to do with it, which is why they usually occur in the far north. And the far south too, I guess, since we have TWO magnetic poles."
She considers Rinako's questions, and doesn't really like the implication. "If this is a Genjutsu, then we've already been trapped in it. That means the fight is basically over. I don't know about the rest of you, but I haven't trained to fight off Genjutsu." After a few more moments of staring at the green in the distance, Ruri comes to a decision.
"Well, we aren't going to find out anything by just standing around. If this is a trap, let's play along for now. It's better to knowingly spring the trap early than wait and get caught unawares when it's least convenient." Then she takes off running, arms hanging at her sides. She's heading for the green line in the distance. There's nothing else to do, really. It's the only distinguishing feature of the terrain, and thus the only real landmark they have.
Kara doesn't like that idea either. "…Great, Genjutsu. If that's what this is, then yes, we are screwed. I have no techniques for breaking out of something like that." She frowns, taking her eyes off the sky and looking towards Ruri. >Now< she notices the emerald hue of something blurry in the distance. Ruri's words make sense, but that doesn't mean she has to be pleased with charging into a trap. Obviously, if someone set up something this elaborate, then they can't intend anything good for those they capture. One does not put a bleeping >aurora borealis in the sky< just to sucker some random traveller into getting stabbed.
Kara moves to follow after Ruri as the younger woman charges towards that line of green. And assuming the others do the same, not only does the temperature continue to drop rapidly, but the air ahead seems different somehow… Blurry, sort of. 'Maybe it's an illusion after all!' Kara thinks. As they get closer and closer to that blurriness, what is visible beyond changes as well. The sand seems to become lighter colored, and that line of green resolves into the edge of a forest. You know, with >trees<. And they don't look like the kinds of trees that grow in the desert, or even in the Land of Fire.
Suddenly, first Ruri, then Kara, then whatever order the others are following in, each team member passes through the blurry air -- and each finds herself suddenly slowed down. Not just the team members, but the entire >world< seems to slow down. Running is performed in slow-motion, and movement forward is as though trying to push through molasses. The very air seems to be 'thick' somehow. There's no time to really process this, however. Even though everything seems to take several seconds to happen, the realization of what is being experienced doesn't strike the Team until a moment later, when suddenly they 'pop through' the thick air. The moment they are on the other side, they would be assaulted with information. The experience they just went through with that 'thick air' for one thing, and the literally frigid air that suddenly surrounds and blasts against the four kunoichi (and one cat) in the form of howling winds.
Kara comes to a stop as quickly as she can, eyes widening briefly in shock, before squinting closed in response to the cold wind stinging her eyes. She has time to think, 'When did everything get so >white<!?' and then she slips and slides on the terrain, and falls face-down in the snow.
The desert is gone. They are now in an expansive field of snow, with a forest of ever-greens and similar trees relatively nearby. The air is very cold, and the wind howls in everyone's ears. But the wind fails to mask the sound of waves crashing on the shore, such as occurs near a beach, and it only serves to carry the pungent scent of salt water more directly to the noses of the women.
Kara remains where she is, face down in the snow, rear in the air, on her knees. This is a bit overwhelming, after all. Finally, she lifts her head and looks around, snow sliding off of her face. "…Guys, I don't think we're in the Wind Country anymore."
"We could… you know, all try breaking our fingers and seeing if that makes the pretty lights go away?" The ever-helpful Rinako lifts her digits and wiggles them in the air with her suggestion. "If it doesn't work, we'll just wear some casts on our hands for a little while and be the laughing stock of the village. Noooooooo pressure."
The elder of the twins did NOT want to go running towards what was likely to be something dangerous that would try to crush, kill, mutilate, or otherwise render their bodies lifeless. If there weren't a high probability of danger, shinobi wouldn't need to be sent in, and now they were apparently to rush right into it! Grumbling under her breath, the dark-haired kunoichi reluctantly follows in the footsteps of her sister and Kara, and likely Shemri too, seeing as Rinako was the slowest of the group. When she hits the thick air, it's a completely new sensation for the young woman. The others probably experienced something similar whenever they were in the water, but aquatic barriers had never proven any hindrance to the jinchuriki. It's definitely not an experience she enjoys! But seemingly just as quickly, they're bouncing out the other side, suddenly with momentum built up from struggling through the 'thicker' part of the air, causing Rinako to stumble forward, move to catch herself, only to slip on the wet snow, strike her bum on the ground, and then slide several more feet on her back. For a moment, she doesn't move, then lifts her head and scowls. But there's no time to make smart comments, because suddenly it's FREEZING IN HERE!
Struggling off of the cold ground, which really only put her more directly in the path of the cold wind, the teenaged kunoichi wraps her arms tightly about herself, hopping in place, blowing hot air on her fingers.
"What the hell! I mean WHAT THE HELL! I know I said I wanted to go to the beach, but this is NOT what I meant!"
Shemri shrugs. "Well, I know of one fairly effective way to break a genjutsu…but I would rather not try it until we are certain that is what is going on. It is…rather costly." e.e Hax genjutsu users, forcing everyone else to either be good at chakra control or stab themselves just to keep their senses. :P Anyway, whole group heads onward to investigate, and…well, isn't /this/ a change of scenery! c.c One which they're pretty unprepared for all around. Desert garb is covering, but light. Shemri shivers and draws her cloak around herself as tightly as she can. Shiikaa's probably the best-off amongst them, having a fur coat, though even that is thinner than it could be, having been accustomed to desert living. "I am beginning to think this really is an illusion," Shemri chatters, "simply because I can think of no other explanation for it." c.C;
Ruri is not in the mood to break her fingers, and further just doesn't really think this is a Genjutsu. Genjutsu just aren't… LIKE this. Why make an obvious barrier of distorted air ahead of the group on top of the display in the sky? If this was supposed to be a trap, the Genjutsuist could have just used the aurora borealis to distract them and then cut their throats. Then it would be over. This is too complex and inefficient to be a huge Genjutsu trap. Or so Ruri has decided. She offers in response to Rinako, even as she continues running, "Good idea. You go first. Let us know if it works." Guess Rinako isn't the only one who can make smart comments!
The passing through the thickened air is extremely odd. Ruri isn't really aware of what's going on until AFTER she has passed through. Then it's like time -- and her own mind -- catch up with events, and she experiences the crossing after the fact. Little time is provided to comprehend this, however, before the slippery ground destabilizes Ruri as she lurches forward, and then tries to stop. Unlike Kara and Rinako, as she wobbles, she manages to get herself down into a crouch, and put down one hand on the cold, wet ground, so that she sort of 'skids' across the snow, turning in a full circle unintentionally, feet and hand dragging through the whiteness and lessening her momentum.
This may look cool, or as though Ruri has super reflexes and reaction time that let her maintain her balance, but it was actually just dumb luck. She had no idea what was going on and just acted reflexively. Her left eye is wide as it looks around wildly. Ruri turns her head this way and that, trying to take in the changes that have been wrought. "…This--This is…" she starts to say, but then just trails off. Even after she has had the time to stand up straight and hold her arms close to her chest, squinting as the chill wind stings her face with specks of ice, she doesn't finish her sentence. Because, honestly, she has no idea what this is.
"…If this is a Genjutsu, then whoever is performing it not only has way too much time on his hands, but is also very powerful, and it's unlikely we can do much of anything to defend ourselves while we're trapped. Nee-chan, try out your earlier suggestion. Break one of your fingers, please. You heal faster than the rest of us by far, and while I don't like it when you suffer, you'll be combat capable sooner than if Kara-chan were to do the same." Ruri is trying to keep a level head, while simultaneously attempting to mentally project various possibilities of what is going on, and then assign each possibility a probability ratio. Measuring each ratio against the other, she'll start silently eliminating possibilities, based on what evidence is gathered. The first bit of information she needs, however, whether this is Genjutsu. If Rinako can break free, she'll most likely stop responding, or vanish, or otherwise 'fall out' of the illusion. Then she can help the others.
If she can't break free, then they are pretty much completely fucked. And if this isn't an illusion… Well, we'll see. Turning away from the wind blasting her in the face, Ruri looks towards Kara. "Are you alright?" she inquires. She doesn't really think that Kara is injured, but the dark-skinned woman is wearing the LEAST out of the entire team (Shiikaa doesn't count, because of the fur coat that Shemri mentioned. Cats don't need clothes). She is thus likely to be the most affected by the cold.
Just as Ruri predicted, Kara has begun to freeze her butt off in a remarkably short period of time. She stores things in scrolls, usually. Extra equipment, or maps and tools, or food and water… But it never occurred to her to bring different types of outfits for different climates. After all, why would she do that in advance just on the off chance that she winds up somewhere with inhospitable weather without warning? Generally, if someone is going to go to a place like that, one knows in advance!
Kara gets to her feet as quickly as she can, and crosses her arms over her chest, rubbing her hands on the upper arm of each appendage. She lifts one foot, and then the other, over and over, sort of 'dancing' in place, as she tries to generate warmth. "Th-this s-s-sucks!" she manages to get out through chattering teeth.
"Th-this b-better be a-an i-i-illusion!" she yells, though her words are somewhat overpowered by the volume of the nearly arctic-temperature winds that howl mournfully over the landscape. Though she looks around briefly, the course of action that makes the most sense to her is to turn around and go back the way they came. If this is an illusion, then they might get stuck in a different environment, or something else. But if this is some weird Ninjutsu, then crossing back over the barrier they traversed to get here may place them right back in the Land of Wind. However, when Kara turns around, however, and starts lightly hop-stepping forward, she does not encounter any thickened air. She continues for a few more steps, and then dares to extend one arm away from the warmth of her body, and wave it through empty space. She squints, trying to see if maybe it's further away than she thought it was originally… But nope. There's nothing there.
"Th-that b-barrier is g-g-gone!" she reports at a volume she hopes can be heard over the wind. She looks behind her at the others, to see what they have to say, or what they think about this, but then looks forward again, desperately searching for some sign, some hint of what they passed through to arrive in this forsaken place. Nothing. Just a vast field of snow, stretching into the distance. Far on the horizon, she thinks she can see majestic, purple mountains… Mountains that don't exist in that direction, in the Land of Wind. Uncharacteristically, Kara yells out, ">S-Son of a whore!< Th-this better b-be a god-damned i-i-illusion, or s-s-someone is g-gonna' die!" She pauses, scowling angrily. Then she corrects herself. "I-If this is an i-illusion s-s-someone is >still< going to die!"
"Oh, now you want to listen to me!? No way! I'm not cracking open my finger just so I can be the only one looking stupid. If this is some kind of twisted revenge for dragging you to the hospital, you can forget it. I'm still going to get that thing out of you, and ordering me to hurt myself isn't going to change that!"
Kara's outbursts manage to halt Rinako's refusals for the time being, turning her scowl in the older kunoichi's direction as she hops in place, trying to breath warmth into her fingers, which were rapidly becoming numb from the cold, as were her toes, for that matter. It didn't help that the young woman's strongest affinity was with a cold-blooded amphibian! Already she could feel herself growing groggy with sleep, and a sleepy Rinako was usually as irritable as a hibernating bear.
The sound of something wet and fleshing snapping rings out through the air just a moment before Rinako grunts and holds up her crooked middle finger for her sister to see, glaring at the younger woman. "YOU HAPPY NOW!? Now all we know is that if this is a genjutsu, there's no snapping out of it!" The dark-haired kunoichi turns away, gripping her hand as she growls, pain momentarily driving out the feeling of being cold, trying to more or less straighten the finger back into place. Of course, she still couldn't bend it, which meant one of her punching hands was now severely reduced in effectiveness.
"Unless you have any OTHER genius ideas, and if you do, you can do them on YOURSELF, we need to find shelter."
Shemri ponders trying the stabby thing herself, but if Rinako didn't succeed in breaking an illusion, it's unlikely that Shemri would. That, and she might not even feel it that much in this cold. x.x; Well, actually, if the cold is just an illusion, could it hamper the pain that would break the illusion? c.c Meh, either way, Shemri's not trying it. :P
So! Under the circumstances, Shemri might be the most knowledgable person about the terrain. She's not that accustomed to snow, especially of this degree, but she does know forests in general. "If we are to seek shelter, we should move away from the sea," Shemri notes. "Salt water kills plant life, so the forest will be thicker away from it." Shemri glances down at her cat. "Shiikaa, anything?" Shiikaa paws ice crystals off his nose and lifts it into the air. He can't stand that for long, and quickly ducks his head. After a few shivering meows, Shemri turns toward Ruri. "He says he believes there is the smell of someone else from the forest, but he cannot be certain because he also smells us, and that cannot be right. Perhaps there is simply too much wind to say where a smell is coming from." :P
Ruri shakes her head. This is unbelievable. Insane. Very improbable. But it's what happening right now. She has to deal with it. First order of business: Shelter. Shivering all over, she calls out to the others, "We have to find cover--" she starts, but Rinako butts in. "--Yes, I KNOW, Rinako! W-We're not going to survive if we s-stay out here!" She points in the direction of the forest, confirming that she's taking Shemri's advice. "Let's head th-that way!" She acknowledges the information about there being a stranger's scent coming from the forest via a possibly unheard grunt. Then she turns and begins running towards the tree line. Unlike her normal ninja-run, she keeps her arms close to her body. Letting them hang at her sides loosely, so that she can more easily grab a weapon or defend herself is great and all, but conserving warmth is MORE great. Maybe there's a stranger in the forest. But that doesn't mean the stranger is hostile, and he or she might be able to tell them what the hell is going on. Or if he/she is responsible for this… Maybe beating the jerk senseless will end this miserable experience.
Hopefully everyone follows her. No reason for them to do otherwise, but maybe someone has a better idea (it appears not, though, unless Kara has something to say). If not, then she'll lead the way towards the forest, squinting against the granules of ice that pelt her face, courtesy of the wind. With any luck, they'll arrive at the forest without incident, and be able to use the cover of the trees as protection against this heat-killing wind. From there, they can try to establish more about where they are, why they're here, and how they got here.
And how to get home too, hopefully.
Kara gasps as Rinako breaks her finger. "H-Hey! C-c-couldn't you have j-just, like, b-bitten your l-lip h-hard or s-s-s-something!?" She shakes her head, listening to the report by Shemri and Shiikaa, and the instructions from Ruri. When the Team Leader takes off running, Kara does the same a moment later. She doesn't want to stay out in the wind any longer than she has to. She can barely even feel her own feet impacting the snow as she runs, due to the numbness. If she stays out here, it is likely she will suffer from frostbite. Losing digits and appendages is not high on her list of things to try out someday.
As Ruri and Kara, and probably the others, all run towards the forest, there are no indications that anyone else is in the vicinity. Except for Shiikaa's nose, there's just no signs of other human beings around. That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though. It's a dense forest, and rather expansive too. It's fully possible some stranger is in there, and he or she just isn't in line-of-sight right now.
The moment that the team is in the thick of the forest, the wind's affect on them is immediately and drastically reduced. It hasn't gotten any warmer, but it has certainly become less cold. If that makes sense. Kara continues to follow Ruri through the forest, hugging herself and chattering her teeth. When she gets out of this place or whatever this is, she is >never< going to complain about the desert's heat again!
As Team 01 makes its way through the forest, mostly shielded from the deadly wind, the Northern Lights continue to wave in the night sky overhead. Kara tilts her head back to look up at them. 'How can something so beautiful have lead us into such a stupid situation?' she thinks. Thanks to her gaze being directed upwards, Kara catches sight of what she thinks is the blur of a black shape briefly flickering by. If not for the fact that it blots out the stars for a second with its body, she wouldn't have even noticed. It was completely silent.
Eyebrows coming down, mouth opening slightly, Kara keeps looking upwards for a moment, before bringing her gaze back down and whispering, "H-Hey, I th-think I j-j-just s-s-saw someone j-jump by ab-above us!" The others may likewise notice signs of not being alone, if they are looking around. A feeling of being watched. The edge of a dark silhouette moving back into concealment behind a tree after peeking around it at the group. A crunch of snow as someone's foot touches the ground briefly behind the group, but would only barely be sighted in the form of a vague indication of a fleeing shadow, before that too has vanished somewhere.
All in all, Kara is feeling mighty agitated. She doesn't know how many people there are. The brief glimpses and noises seem to come from multiple locations. Are they surrounded!? How did Shiikaa not detect them all!?! She falls into a defensive stance, and quickly reaches one numb hand up to fumble with the scroll containing Pharaoh, still in its slot in her harness. The idea is to get the scroll out and remove Pharaoh from storage, so she can actually have a chance of helping out if there's a fight. But it's really hard when she can't even tell if she's touching anything or not.
And then the situation goes from 'worse' to 'oh '. Just as Kara succeeds in getting Pharaoh's scroll out and starting to open it, something long and flexible lashes out of the shadows from behind her, wraps around her throat and >yanks< her backwards through the air so hard that she doesn't even touch the ground until after she has vanished into the darkness, giving out only a strangled cry!
Pharaoh's scroll fell from Kara's hand, and now lies on the ground, partially unrolled.
The killing numbness was at least beginning to deaden the pain, just as it was starting to deaden all of the nerves within Rinako's body with a chill so cold it felt hot on the skin. Craddling her hand to her chest, as holding onto her wrist somehow made her feel as if her finger were hurting less, Rinako begins to plod in the direction her sibling and the others had taken. She didn't often think of hurting her sister, but right now crushing her from behind with the world's largest snowball and leaving her encased in ice for all eternity was a particular fantasy playing through her mind.
But the closer they get to the treeline, the more something odd begins to pull at her, a nagging sensation she can't quite describe, a feel of being led that was just beyond her reach to place. At least it yanks her out of her daydreams of breaking her twin's fingers with a large stick. She scowls, then slows, and eventually stops as the fleeting shadows surrounding them become more and more plentiful. But no matter how she looked this way or that, she never caught more than a glance out of the corner of her eye. And still she felt the pull of being led somewhere in a way that had nothing to do with following her team.
"Do you think it might be some kind of animal? Or native? Did anyone get a good look at the- KARA!"
There's no thinking involved between when Rinako spins around at the older kunoichi's garbled sound of distress and when she immediately starts chasing after her rapidly-disappearing form. Darkness be damned, she wasn't going to sit idle while something had ahold of her friend, plunging headlong, heedless of any danger that might rear up before her, or of traps that she might be running into, towards the dark area the faux-Egyptian had vanished into.
Shemri glances about as the team dashes into the forest, looking. Looking for places that would make good shelter, looking for clues about where they /are/, looking for signs of the forest's other inhabitants. The first two are not forthcoming, and the third…well, there are telltale disturbances here and there, but going by as quickly as they are, it's hard to piece them together into a cohesive story. Until Kara slows up the group with the mention of a shape going by overhead. c.c Shiikaa's ears swivel around, and he reports that the team is being surrounded by bogeys. If the figure Kara mentioned is one of them, it can't be some pack of wolves or anything either.
Shemri takes a moment to think on the situation. There are several types of predators, she knows. There are trap predators, like spiders, which create some manner of trap and wait for prey to stumble into it. Dealing with them means being careful not to run into the trap, or once in it, don't make any sudden moves until you understand very well how the trap works. There are also pack predators, which run their prey to the ground and overwhelm them with numbers. The best way to deal with them is to find a place where you can prevent them from ganging up effectively, like a cave or a river. Given their current tactics, these foes seem to fall into that category…only there's something atypical about them. Most pack predators don't rely on stealth, since it's difficult to manage in large groups and usually doesn't provide as much advantage to their final tactic of ganging up. Yet these are being very stealthy, which is more in line with the type of predator that uses--AMBUSH!!! And there goes Kara. o.O
"Move!!!" Shemri shouts. "We are already where they want us, it can hardly get worse!" Rinako is already moving, thankfully, and Shemri follows after--pack or ambush, either one has a harder time dealing with a group of prey, so it's best to stick together. And, y'know, maybe save Kara. c.c Shemri has the presence of mind to grab Pharaoh's scroll as she passes it. She's very thankful now for all that juggling practice she did with her sash tails. Maybe they can't feel anything, but at the moment neither can her flesh-and-blood limbs, and the sash isn't much less dextrous for the cold.
Ruri has not trained her perception skills beyond normal for ninja. Thus she is completely oblivious to her sister beaming mind bullets at the back of her head. However, once they are amidst the forest itself, Ruri slows down from her run in order to look back at Rinako. "…." Rinako seems distracted. Ruri's expression softens from her frown. "…Nee-chan, I--" she starts, but she is cut off by Shiikaa's warning, combined with Kara's whisper. Her mind focuses instantly on the situation at hand, and she sharply glances in the direction of each of the disturbances -- whether they be seen or heard. She has that blind spot on her right, so anything in that direction is unlikely to be spotted. However, aside from moving her head and her eye, she takes no action until the moment just before Kara is snared. She Body Flickers out of sight, up into the tree branches. Hopefully no one was able to track where she went. That would mean she not only has a better view of the environment from above, but can launch a surprise attack on whatever enemy appears.
The fact that Kara was just taken down so quickly and easily and that Rinako is charging after her is not lost on Ruri, but until she can identify exactly WHERE the enemy is, and if anyone else is in danger of being subdued or attacked in a similar manner to Kara, she can't reveal herself. Yet, staying in one place will just make her easier to find, probably.
She has to get a better vantage point, and stay out of sight, so the younger of the Rurohashi twins tries to coldly bury her emotions, to ignore her concern for her friend and her sister, and think logically and strategically. She Body Flickers again, to a different branch on the other side of the forest path they had been on, and then leaps straight up after she lands, performing an acrobatic backwards somersault in mid-air and landing on a third branch, at least a dozen feet above her. From there she presses her back to the tree, and peeks around the trunk at the ground now far below. Who are they facing? And how many are there? What kind of support should she provide to Rinako? Is Shemri going to be able to act to conceal or defend herself with her own skills and specialties? Or will she be left out in the open, an easy target for the enemy?
Then Shemri yells out and follows after Rinako. 'Good girl, Shemri-san.' Ruri thinks to herself. She doesn't want to have to show herself to rescue Shemri, after all. And with Shemri backing up Rinako, there's a better chance of the two being able to fend off any more attacks, and rescue Kara.
Kara lands hard on her back in the snow, a painfully tight length of material wrapped around her throat. Shedding her surprise like water, she reaches her hands up quickly and tries to pry at whatever this thing is. However, it is as hard, cold, and unyielding as solid steel, despite the fact it was obviously flexible. 'How does this stupid thing work!?' she thinks in distress.
She can't get enough air to ask the question outloud. Her eyes are squinted as she peers up at the sky. A shadow moves into position, standing over her. She's apparently lying at the feet of her attacker, in a rather vulnerable position. This occurs to her a split second before the glint of something metal being raised over this stranger's head is processed by her brain. She reacts not by instinct or reflex -- either would result in her dying, as she did something useless like trying to shield herself with her arms or huddle into a ball. Instead, her training overrides natural instincts, and she rolls to the side! She can't go very far with that metal rope around her neck, but the weapon misses her by scant inches and strikes the ground instead of Kara's face.
However, this small victory is short lived as her attacker simply rises into a standing position again, yanks >hard< on the noose-thing around Kara's throat, making her feel as though it's cutting into her skin, and completely cutting off her already meager air supply. Gagging, and no longer really able to take defensive actions, Kara pulls with all her might on the metal noose, eyes scrunching closed as she sees her attacker raising a boot this time. There's a shorter delay between a boot to the face of a downed opponent, than there is for a weapon raised overhead to be brought all the way down to ground-level.
And that's when Rinako charges in. Her attacker, whoever it is, aborts the attempted boot-to-the-head attack, and instead hops backwards on his/her other foot. The 'hop' is sufficient to send him through the air at least a dozen feet, putting some distance between himself and the new challenger. He still has a hold of the other end of the metal noose, but Kara thinks she has an idea of how it works now. Metal doesn't flex and bend one second and turn completely solid the next. Not unless it's a very special metal.
She channels Chakra through her hands, into the noose, just as her head is starting to feel light from lack of oxygen. The metal loosens. Kara sucks in a breath first, slips the loop over her head second, and then scrambles to get away third. She'll worry about counter-attacking or helping Rinako once she has some more air. Coughing and crouching next to her friend, she looks towards the one who attacked her.
He's standing half-in and half-out of a patch of moonlight, so part of him is completely hidden by shadows, and the other half is more or less visible. Whoever he is, he's dressed much more appropriately for the weather than Kara is. He is wearing leather and fur, mostly, but it seems to be streamlined so that it won't impede his movement. His head has a hood on it, and the lower half of his face has a scarf over it. He has narrowed blue eyes, surrounded by dark-toned skin, that stare emotionlessly back at Kara and Rinako. In his visible hand is an odd sort of blade weapon. It's like a knife or dagger, but the blade is curved and protrudes from the weapon's grip. The dagger-thing is held so that the tip of the blade is pointed down… Apparently it's intended to be a slashing weapon, rather than a stabbing one. It's like if someone took a sickle with the sharp edge on the opposite side from normal, and then put the side that is normally sharp flat against the handle.
The ambusher's forehead is covered by a hita-ite… And on the plate of the hitai-ite is the symbol of Sunagakure. A deep gouge cuts across the etching.
Shemri and Shiikaa arrive right behind Rinako a moment later, but have only a moment to take in the sight of this guy, before he lowers his shoulders and begins running in ninja fashion, arms loose at his sides, head down, body forward. He charges right at Rinako! As this happens, Shemri is likely to become aware of danger a moment before someone in a heavy, white fur cloak lunges in from her right, one leg extended. Dynamic Entry!? The new attacker is trying to kick Shemri right in the face!
No one seems to spot Ruri at the moment, or if they do, they choose not to attack her. From her position above everyone else, she'd be likely to spot the fight going on in the shadows, as well as notice a man in a Sunagakure-style uniform leaping from one branch to another, gradually making his way towards where the others are fighting. The outfit has been modified for winter weather, with fur and such, so it is unlikely this person is from the same place Team 01 is from. After all, he seems to be prepared for the climate.
And though Ruri doesn't get a good look at his face, there is something terribly familiar about even the back of his head…
The dark-haired kunoichi only pauses long enough to take stock of the situation once she's caught up with Kara and her attacker, before deciding that the best course of action is to turn the strange man's head around several times and then take his clothes. She's no longer running, but rather she stalks forward in a slight croch, her arms up and at the ready, though one of her fingers refuses to obey her commands. She was just going to have to ignore it for now and hope that further fighting with the broken bone wouldn't result in permanent damage.
"Idiot, you're not getting paid enough to DIE!"
She didn't expect the vagabond, who seemed to be an outcast of her very own village, to listen to her verbal warning, of course. They never did. But as the shinobi comes rushing towards her, the kunoichi's legs tense. Something was wrong here, something she couldn't quite place, but the only thing that mattered was rearranging this guy's anatomy.
The bijuu within reacts instinctively to the danger, granting it's container access to it's chakra, activating the dense chakra shield around it's host, covering her skin in invisible protection. Rinako ignores the knife, and subsequent strikes from other limbs, for now, reaching instead with her broken hand for the enemy's throat, or the clothing on his chest, shoulders, or… anywhere she could get a grip, really. All the better to keep him from moving anywhere as she slams her other fist at his body or face.
"KARA!" Rinako calls out, seeing as Shemri has now fallen under assault. "Something bad is coming! BE READY!"
Most of the senses are at a disadvantage right now. Sight? Hey, it's dark. Touch? Numb city. Smell? Kinda tough with your nose froze. But the remaining sense (yeah we all know there are five, but taste doesn't help much in a fight) is actually helped by the cold. Something about the crisp stillness of the air causes sound to transmit with a clean clearness which is rarely experienced elsewhere. And luckily, hearing is a Maneshi's forte.
The rapid crunching of snow on Shemri's right forewarns her that somebody is about to try a running assault. Well, there's a common weakness to such attacks--running in humans requires remaining upright, which means the attack typically strikes high. >) Hence, Shemri's defense is to simply pull her legs up and drop, landing in a low crouch. By her reasoning, the attacker should either trip over her, which will be more painful for them than for her, or--yup, just go sailing straight over. "Hoi, Kara!" Shemri tosses Pharaoh's scroll to her team-mate. "Take better care of your toys, or we shall not get you more!" ;)
Oh, one more nice little bonus to the cold-makes-sound-better thing--Shiikaa's tiger roar transmits nicely. He gives Shemri's attacker a nice loud indicator of how he feels about people trying to kick his mistress's face. >O
Ruri is trying to keep track of all these enemies. 'Where the hell are they coming from?' She spots the flash of white as someone in a fur cape or something comes leaping through the air, intent on introducing his foot to Shemri's face--Wait. That's a woman. Ruri thinks, at least. He/She was moving too fast to be sure. That's less of a concern, than the fact that her sister has engaged the first ambusher. Blade weapons are generally not a threat against Rinako if she has her Chakra shields up. But who knows what else that guy can do?
Then all her concerns are washed away. That man. She knows him. Whoever he is, Ruri knows him better than she wishes she did. Just seeing his outline makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Very few people provoke such a reaction from her, which REALLY narrows it down to two people. One is dead. Which leaves the Kazekage himself! Maybe she didn't get a very good look, and can't be sure it's him--NO! It has to be him! No one else makes her feel so much hate. No one else is enough of an insane, evil asshole to pull crap like this!
Well, if he's finally making his move to eliminate Team 01, then he's going to have a hell of a fight on his hands. Ruri rises from her crouched position finally, and leaps quickly through the treetops, trying to catch up with that bastard before he has a chance to act! When she gets close enough, if her friends are far enough away, Ruri touches a Flesh Scroll tattoo, and launches a large, sharp-tipped, basalt obelisk through the air right at the bastard's back! …Or his face if he winds up facing her. She's not picky as long as he dies. "DIE, YOU EVIL FUCK!" Ruri screams out, perhaps a bit unwisely. But she does it only AFTER she has seen whether her attack hits or not. No reason to provide forewarning. Either way, she'll try to land near her team mates after jumping down from the tree she was in. They'll face these idiots together, as a team. No one is going to take them down one at a time.
Rinako's Chakra Shell is a formidable defense. Normal blades, or even >super sharp< blades would just plain not get through. So it may be a bit surprising to the Jinchuuriki when this guy's blade starts grinding its way through her shield like it's a buzzsaw insead of a knife. It doesn't penetrate completely, though, so Rinako remains unharmed. However, it seems that perhaps this guy has his own unseen Chakra fields he can use. Like ones for extending the reach of his blades, and able to harm other Chakra fields.
Just as surprised as Rinako may be, even as her hand reaches out for the guy and grabs him by the nearest grippable garment and succeeds in seizing him, her attacker >also< seems surprised. His previously emotionless eyes widen slightly. But that's all in a split-second, and there's no real time to take in such nuances. Rinako's fist comes surging at her enemy, and he attempts to avoid it despite being held in place. His head moves aside, leaving behind a few after-images, but that alone would not be enough to save him. It's a good thing, then, that in addition to being fast he is also lucky. In addition to moving his head, he also throws himself away from Rinako, and that results in the scarf that was previously covering the lower half of his face, and his throat, and upper chest, to be pulled free of his possession, and get left behind in Rinako's grip.
The strength of his lunging evasion attempt combined with the Chakra Shell that surrounds Rinako's fist unleashing a wave of invisible force, results in him being sent skidding quite a distance across the snow somewhat, turning as he does so in order to face the elder of the twins. His right arm is raised, blade still in hand, and crosses over his face. It's not so much an attempt to shield his identity as it is a defensive block for any further attacks. His left hand has an identical blade to the one in his right, now visible.
What is visible now of the man, with his scarf removed, is that he is… Not a man at all! 'He' is a rather busty >woman<! He-->She< isn't attacking again yet, possibly considering her options.
Shemri ducks under the flying jump kick, and her attacker passes overhead. The woman in the fur cape strikes a tree on Shemri's left with the foot that had been intended to strike her target. Using the tree trunk, she pushes herself off, and back into the air, where she turns, her red air swinging around her. She then crosses her arms, reaching her hands inside of her cape, and coming away with two handfulls of three kunai each. These, she throws in a manner that should be >very< familiar to Shemri.
Throw very tricky, swift, and accurate throwing, she manages to not only throw kunai, but also to deflect kunai off of other kunai, so that they come in from diffent angles. Effectively, Shemri has a kunai coming at her from behind when her opponent attaked her from the front. Another two kunai, one from the left and one from the right, also converge on Shemri's location. The attacker cannot perform any further attacks, however, because she was just blasted by a focused, deafening roar throws her equilibrium off.
She lands in a crouch a short distance away from Shemri, and her green eyes stare back into the Maneshi's similar green eyes. She doesn't dare to move yet, both due to being stunned, and because of how close she is to her enemy. And maybe for another reason… Shiikaa, meanwhile, would get a nearly-unseen sphere of condensed wind launched at him from an unseen enemy nearby. Before the attack is even half way to its target, the attacker has already relocated and is preparing to attack again from somewhere else!
Kara catches the scroll from Shemri, and immediately uses it. Pharaoh erupts from storage in a cloud of smoke, and the Puppeteer prepares to launch a barrage of poisoned needles at the knife-wielding ambusher. And that's when the man arrives. He lands in the generous space inbetween Knife Woman and Rinako. His face should be enough to make all of Team 01 who see him stop dead in whatever they are doing. Despite Ruri's conviction that this is the Kazekage, it is not. Instead, the man in the fur-trimmed and otherwise modified Sunagakure Jounin garments is a person no one expected to see again. Someone no one >WANTED< to see again. Ever.
"So, you have finally tracked us down, Rinako-'hime'. And it seems you have finally learned that dragging an army around with you wherever you go is not likely to help you catch rebels who rely on stealth. Though why you brought such an unskilled team in such ridiculous clothing escapes me, I'm sure you'll tell me in a moment when you begin your megalomaniacal banter."
That face… Narrow, and yet somehow 'square'ish. The hair… Spikey and brown. Those freaky 'fish' eyes… Eyes that now look upon Rinako with cold, calm, and hate, instead of the insanity and hunger she last saw displayed in them. There can be no doubt of who this man is. Then a huge, sharpened pillar of black stone comes flying right at him from above.
He leaps up and backwards, and kicks straight up. It seems as though he misses the obelisk, but after he lands next to Knife Woman, the projectile hits the ground farther away in the forest, in two pieces. He sliced it in half with his foot. As Ruri lands next to her allies, the man's eyebrows come down and he frowns after he sees who just attacked him. Knife Lady then stands up, and lowers her arm from her face. Talk about a double-whammy! Everyone here knows that woman!
Then red-haired woman who was facing Shemri leaps away suddenly, and lands with her allies, as does her companion… A cat. Standing all in a row, from left to right… Shemri and Shiikaa are staring wide-eyed at the Shemri and Shiikaa by Rinako. Because there are now >TWO< Shemris and >TWO< Shiikaas. Standing next to them is >Kara<, though her expression is like nothing any of Team 01 has ever seen on that familiar face. The Puppeteer Kara's mouth is hanging open as she stares at her double, having forgotten her planned attack.
Right next to the 'other' Kara, is the leader of this trio, apparently.
"Well, now…" Sheex says in an intrigued tone. "…This is very >interesting.<"
TO BE CONTINUED…