Date: January 3, 2011
When the Jinchuuriki of Sunagakure goes missing, it's up to her teammates and their backup to locate her! But finding her doesn't prove as easy as simply following a trail. Could Rinako have turned traitor?
"Paradise Lost, Part I: Devastation"
Mother Island, Land of the Sea
When Rurohashi Ruri woke up that morning after her up-all-night-sleep-for-three-hours-do-it-again routine, she had found her sibling gone. Though unusual, given it was Rinako who was the sleeper of the pair, this wasn't cause for alarm. Later that afternoon, she still hadn't returned, nor had she as day waned into night. A casual canvassing of the neighborhood would turn up nothing, and neither would asking the nice old lady that lived down the hall. A wider-spread inquisition would reveal none of the people in the twin's apartment building had seen the jinchuuriki at all since the previous night. The next logical step would be to inquire at the Sunagakure Administration Dome if she had been dispatched for training or a mission. The answer would be 'no', and of course prompt more questions, leading to a quiet inquiry as to the location of Rurohashi Rinako.
A pair of Chuunin are added to the search, one of whom has an affinity for sensing the presence of other shinobi through blood. The search would turn up nothing, and by the time morning is on the horizon, the last place anyone would expect Rinako to turn up is checked: the Rurohashi girl's parent's house. The mostly-retired Jounin pair merely give a weary smile and inform their visitors that their eldest daughter has not visited them in a little over six years. By dawn, the search had expanded towards the outer desert. The only clue that pops up is a trade caravan heading out of Sunagakure with several of its members reporting seeing a 'huge monster' going east at night. They did not get a good look at it, and most in the caravan believed it to be a simple mirage. The desert could play tricks on the mind, after all.
By mid-afternoon of the following day, an official mission was handed out to the remaining members of Team 01: find and return Rurohashi Rinako to Sunagakure immediately by any means necessary, or retrieve her corpse if the worst has happened. Given that Ruri's team are the ones who know her best, they are the ones chosen to lead this mission over more qualified Jounin. There has been no indication, other than disappearing, of her having gone traitor, and her sister and friends are the most likely to be able to find a non-violent solution to the problem. But they are also given leave to take along as much support as they deem necessary, within reason, as they may be required to go up against shinobi skilled enough to not only infiltrate Sunagakure, but to kidnap a high-profile Chuunin from her home without a trace.
The eastern trail is precious little to go on, but shinobi are persistent, patient, and doggedly tenacious. A mixture of finding large patches of disturbed land, as if something very large had embedded itself there temporarily and eyewitness reports keep them moving in a generally eastward direction. Whatever they were following, had traveled swiftly, much swifter than the group members themselves are able to travel. Each new 'lead' is found to be increasingly older as the ones they are pursuing become a day, then two days, then nearly a week ahead of them. Team 01 travels right across borders, into the Land of Fire. They encounter no other visible shinobi, but there is constantly the vague sense of being watched, and signs of being tailed until they finally leave the Land of Fire borders behind. The trail ends at the sea.
Which is what has lead up to the current position of the team, standing on the deck of a medium-sized ferry, bringing nearly a hundred people to the Land of the Sea's largest island, Mother Island. It rises up like an enormous emerald in a sea of sapphire, flanked by its sisters: Taro, Demon, and Jiro Islands. The docks of the largest town are clearly visible, and the ferry is even now slowing down to a speed suitable for preparing to pull up alongside the sturdy wooden constructs. Throughout the journey the waves have been unusually fierce, and the boat has listed precariously several times, throwing the crew of the ferry into claims of 'sea witches'. Over the loud-speakers comes the voice of the ship's captain.
"Mother Island. Now stopping at Mother Island. Collect your things, please. This ferry will leave for Taro Island in one hour. Those heading to Taro Island have a one hour break. Now arriving at Mother Island."
The smell of the sea, heavy with salt and the stink of fish, hangs thick in the air, clotting the nostrils as the ferry crew begin to throw ropes to dockhands to moor the ship next to one of the piers. People begin gathering luggage, ready to debark, while others seem just eager to stretch their legs, and a few passengers simply choose to sit on board and wait until the ferry departs again. The fish market itself, as visible from the boat, seems to be rather unlively, considering the importance of fishing to island communities.
Ruri is worried about her sister, of course, but she doubts she's dead. No one would go through this much trouble to kidnap a Jinchuuriki when it would be easier to just transfer the Three-Tails to a different host or seal it somewhere and THEN flee. It's harder to track a handful of people on foot than to track a huge-ass turtle tromping across THREE COUNTRIES. However, feeling that the ones responsible do not intend to simply kill or steal Rinako's Bijuu does not make her less worried. After all, you'd be surprised what you can live through…
Ruri thus paces the deck of the ferry, arms crossed, scowl in place, doing her best to mentally go over every angle of this situation. What is there to gain from kidnapping Rinako? Was she kidnapped at all? Did she leave on her own for some reason? Why would she leave without telling Ruri? Did Ruri do something wrong? Say something wrong? Did she not say anything when such was necessary? Was there an argument that was more serious than she had thought? Is this all her fault? What if that's just what the enemy WANTS her to think!?
And around and around and around it goes in her head, tormenting herself with questions and worries. Ruri is, needless to say, a mental and emotional mess.
Kara would ordinarily be hanging out in a bikini when visiting an island. First of all, she doesn't feel like showing off quite as much now that she has a boyfriend. Second, this is not the right situation to be having fun in. Rinako might be in trouble! She is one of Kara's closest friends and that means she has to be serious for once! Also it is winter and she is acclimated to the heat of the desert, so it is flipping cold in the Land of Seas. Waaaaay too cold for swimsuits. Or so she had assumed when packing for the trip.
"So, 500 ryo says that Rinako blows something up after we find her," Kara offers. So much for being serious. But >someone< has to lighten the mood a little, and thinking positive is a great way to stay motivated! No one wants to think, 'We are going to go recover our friend's corpse.' If there is any chance of rescuing Rinako, it is better to aim for that possibility!
Hone Nai is the Head of Records for Sunagakure. He has no business being on a ninja mission that takes him out into the field, let alone a rescue mission. That is what most people would say. But Nai was assigned to this mission for three reasons. One: He is skilled at Earth Release and the Water Chakra Nature is weak against the Earth Chakra Nature. Two: He has experience with Team 01 as an ally of sorts. Perhaps he is not a 'friend' as most would define friendship, but he certainly knows a lot about each and every member of Team 01 from reading and filing the records of their missions, as well as their personnel files and so forth. He knew enough to go to them specifically when he needed help stopping the Wind Sasaki from digging up corpses of the honored dead.
The third reason for being assigned to this mission is a secret, but has to do with a certain affliction that Nai is suffering from and rumors of an island people in the area having beliefs concerning the worship of a sort of 'Living God' from ancient times. This 'god' has various interpretations of his (or her) mythology, including a fertility god, a blood god, and a god of learning. The fertility aspect comes from the god being considered a true immortal, totally unkillable, and those whom he (or she. The myths vary) reproduces with being exceptionally long-lived. The blood aspect comes from the human sacrifices that were offered at one point in time (and some dark rumors whisper that certain cults still perform them). The wisdom and learning aspect comes from the god's enormous knowledge of 'magic' AND science, and how he (or she) has been teaching and providing for the island natives for centuries.
Why is this of special interest to Nai? That is a question that the answer to is known only by the Kazekage and Nai himself. He has kept quiet for most of the trip except to give advice occasionally, but more than once he has explained about this 'Living God' to those who would listen. It will make it less surprising this way if people assume he is just interested for scholarly reasons. For now, he remains garbed in his typical desert clothing, and waits near Kara's position on the ferry. "As you say," he rasps in response to the Puppeteer, neither accepting her wager nor refusing it.
The lines are pulled taut, the side of the ferry heaved as close to the protective wooden floats lining the edges of the dock as they could be. The crew of the ferry shimmies a wooden plank, crossed many times with lateral struts for ease of stepping, to help prevent slips and falls into the dangerous waters between ship and pier. The handicapped and elderly are allowed to disembark first, and after that it's every person for themselves to make their way single-file down onto the docks and into the seafaring portion of the village.
There is of course no one waiting for the group on the docks, no reception party or messenger. They are left to make their own way throughout the village, and most of the people simply ignore them politely, going on about their business. And yet, if the fish markets had seemed a bit less lively than expected from afar, close up they were practically deserted. Precious few nets were being offloaded that had any substantial amount of fish in them, and those that WERE were being bid upon almost before they could even make it off the ship! Many of the ships had various forms of damage, ranging from torn sails, to snapped masts, and even a few damaged hulls. The fishing in this island village seems to have suffered an almost catastrophic collapse that can be seen from just a glance.
Further looking would reveal that most of the bidders for said fish were men and women who appeared to be villagers themselves, rather than merchants. Hardly a merchant was in sight, and those that were appeared to be traveling, rather than setting up shop. Repairs seemed to be going on all over the place around the docks, mostly to the piers, a few potholes here and there creating slightly-hazardous footing.
"Oh, Rurohashi!" Was a dockworker speaking to Ruri? It seems he was! A young fellow, perhaps about sixteen or so, with a thick coil of rope nearly as thick as his arms over his shoulder smiles at her as he passes, though the smile falters somewhat upon seeing her face. "Ah, is your eye okay? I warned you about those fishing gaffs, didn't I? You have to be more careful! Make sure you see the doctor." Throughout his greeting and cheerful banter, he doesn't even slow, down, walking right on by and towards one of the fishing ships.
Ruri has been less than intrigued about some mythological deity. Or at least at first. But the thing about 'human sacrifices' got her thinking… 'What if some crazy cult is out to sacrifice Rinako as some kind of ritual? What if they want to somehow gain her power!? Those assholes!' She is so busy focusing on this new 'angle' that she barely notices as the ferry docks. When some guy calls out to her, she just nods vaguely in his direction and says, "Yeah."
Then she pauses, trying to remember if she knows that guy from somewhere… Then she gets the full meaning of his words. She leaps from her current position and then dashes after the dockworker. Not wanting to make a scene, she doesn't bother calling out 'Hey, you!' or anything. She just moves in his path and says, "Hey, this is going to sound really, really weird, but just humor me for a sec, okay?" She points at her face. "You know me? Or rather, you know me well enough that you can recognize me even with this hitai-ite over my right eye?"
Presumably Kara and Nai will catch up to her. For now, she can't let this lead slip away. The damage to the docks, the ships, and the near-emptiness of the markets are all clues, but THIS clue is able to walk around and talk. It'll be easier to get information from him through questioning than it will be to ask a ship what put holes in it.
Kara strides along with Ruri as they disembark and go walking around the markets and so forth. The damaged ships cause some concerns about potential storms in the area… But the weather was 'okay' on the way here, so that might not be it. Hmm… When some guy calls out to Ruri, Kara looks in his direction in surprise and blinks. He keeps on walking past, and she just says, "Uhh… Hey… Wait, a sec." But Ruri has already taken off after him, so Kara jogs to catch up. "Uhh, yeah, you know her? I didn't know she'd ever been to this place before!" the dark-skinned woman adds into the conversation as she adjusts her scroll harness on her back.
Nai takes his surroundings in stride. His nearly pure-black goggle lenses reflect his environment clearly. The smell of dead fish fills the air, and that makes him feel somewhere between sickened and and nostalgic. Death is a familiar scent, but fish is not. Further, it is not pleasant either. Still, he keeps his peace and follows behind Kara and Ruri. When the name 'Rurohashi' is called out, Nai takes note of it but does not answer. It was not HIS name that was called, after all. So he just walks along at a normal pace as Ruri runs ahead and Kara jogs ahead. This might be some sort of trick or trap, after all. It is far too convenient that someone would know Ruri's name and just happen to be walking by and recognize her. More likely Rinako has been here for awhile.
The boy stops abruptly as the older woman moves into his path, jerking upright so fast he almost loses his grip on the coils of rope over his arm and it nearly pitches him over backwards onto his butt on the slick wooden surface. He manages to keep his feet, looking at Ruri strangely, an odd, half-baffled smile on his face, alternately trading it between the one-eyed woman and the Egyptianess. "Uh… sure, I do. You've been here off and on all week! You still haven't paid me back for eating all my clams, though. It's been a few days, so I figured you'd caught a ship outta here. But since you haven't, can we settle up now? Fishing's been kind of scarce n'all."
The youthful male looks towards Kara, then angles his gaze towards Nai as he approaches, taking in their unusual garb. But then, being this close to the Land of Water, seeing unusually-garbed individuals wasn't THAT far out of place. But unusual enough to note. "You, uh, made some new friends, huh?" He continues conversationally, awkwardly shifting his weight and resettling the load carried upon his shoulder. "You gonna take them out, too? Er, look, I can't really be seen slacking off right now. I have to get the new rigging lines aboard. The money?"
Ruri nods her head. That sounds like her sister alright. She digs out her coin pouch and says, "I'm Rurohashi Ruri. Rinako is my twin sister. She went missing quite awhile ago, and we are looking for her. I'll pay for the clams, and I'll pay you double if you tell me either where I'm likely to find her, or who I can talk to that can help me find her." She then takes out a thick wad of ryo bills from her 'coin' pouch, making it clear she is not kidding around.
She also turns to Kara and says, "Can you identify Rinako by her Chakra with Pharaoh? If so, find a high place and start looking. Don't go far, incase this kid can help us fast."
Kara moves quickly to try to help catch the boy when he lurches backwards, seemingly about to fall! Luckily it turns out not to be necessary. But it almost becomes >re<necessary when Kara slips on the wet surface and almost collides with the kid! Fortunately there will be no awkward moments today, because Kara manages to regain her balance after flailing her arms a bit right behind the kid in a comical manner, only to return to a normal standing position just as he turns to look at her.
"Yes, Rinako is very important! She is a jiiiiuhhhh… Jilted lover! Her lover failed to show up and she thought she had been abandoned, but in truth the individual just was attacked by bandits and had to crawl back to Sunagakure with two broken legs, one broken arm, and every finger on the other hand broken except for the pinky, for >three whole days<! By then she had left, though, so we totally need to find her and tell her the truth!"
Nice cover-up! She almost let slip a huge secret, but surely no one will suspect anything now! Oh-hohoho! Kara is so clever! At Ruri's order, she nods and says, "Right! I'll get to looking! Let's hope I can remember what her Chakra is like…" She then starts looking for a tall building or other structure that she can use to aid in her 'sweep' of the town.
If Nai had any sweat glands left on his body he would surely have a sweat drop of some kind in place after Kara's near-disasteriffic attempt at speaking. Instead he just stands there and pretends to breathe normally. "I am not sure I can find her with any of my skills…" Nai rasps. "But it at least sounds as though she was physically whole and unharmed as of two days ago. Mentally, I am not certain, but if the described behaviors match your sister, then it is likely she is intact in that capacity as well."
"Uhhhhh… twin? Get outta here! …Wait, you serious?" The youth stares goggle-eyed at Ruri as if she'd just tried to tell him the most implausibly bad joke he'd ever heard with a completely straight face. But after she starts waving around money, well, why would Rinako pay money just to find herself!? His eyes lock onto the wad of bills eagerly, licking his lips like a hungry fox about to be fed, glancing off towads Kara briefly, before resighting the money. "Well… I mean, I guess that'd be okay. She didn't look like she was trying to hide, but she didn't look missing, neither. And I'd sure hate it if she didn't get to marry the fellow she's meant to be with. My Ma says true love is too rare to pass up. Must be one helluva strong guy to be able to keep up with her and fight off bandits!"
"Look… I dunno where she is, ma'am. She just came down to the docks sometimes from the mountains. Every now and then she'd hire a ship to take her out past the bay. But, like I said, I haven't seen her in a couple of days. I guess she left or something." He eyes the bills again. "It was only a dozen or so clams. I mean, they're not normally worth a whole bunch, but with the way things've been," he gestures aimlessly around at the ramshackle docks. "It's getting so bad almost no one wants to go out anymore. Say, your sister, if she didn't come back from that last boat ride? You might check the doctor's. When survivors are rescued or bodies recovered, that's where they're brought. Uh! Not that that's what happened to your sister, I'm sure! I mean, I'm sure she's okay. Just the storms have been bad, y'know? Maybe one of the captains've seen her. Or someone up near the inland edge of the village, up towards the mountains."
As the boy nods at Nai's assessment, trying to show his endorsement that surely the missing woman was alive, well, and whole, Kara would easily enough spy a high location. The only thing that rose higher than the lighthouse in this town was the mountain that loomed over it! As it was day, it had no rotating beam piercing the darkness far out to sea, and thus blind Kara in the process.
Ruri thinks over what the kid says. "The mountains, huh… And past the bay… Sounds like we have three places to investigate, when we add in the doctor's clinic." She nods to Nai and says, "Head to the clinic. I'll look for anyone who may know where in the mountains she was hanging out. If we can't find anyone or she's not there, we'll ask around about where those boats were taking her. It sounds like she was trying to get somewhere in particular." She sighs and turns to locate Kara, wherever she went off to, to see what results she might be turning up with. If she can, she'll just call up, "Having any luck?" and then depending on the answer she may either indicate for Kara to come with her or go in the direction of Rinako's Chakra if they happen to be VERY fortunate.
Kara spots the lighthouse. "…Ooo." Quick as a flash she has run up the side of the tower after reaching its base, and finds her way to the very top. Yanking on a pull-cord on her back harness, a cloud of smoke erupts that Pharaoh emerges from. Kara smiles absurdly wide, all ^^ and then begins giggling. "Heehee… This is now your light house! Get it!? The 'Pharaoh's Lighthouse'!?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Kara begins laughing her head off, and Pharaoh begins doing the same, though the only noises he produces are dry, metallic noises and an almost clockwork-like sound of the various machines inside of him.
Then Kara says, "Okay! Let's get to work!" She slaps a hand on the mummy's shoulder and concentrates her Chakra. A jewel in Pharaoh's headdress begins to emit a cone of unseen Chakra that is swept over the general area, looking for signs of Rinako… But the range is much shorter than usual, and very indistinct. "Hnn…" Kara lets out as she focuses harder. The Chakra cone broadens a bit but continues to struggle. Kara finally lets it go. No point in wasting Chakra in an environment like this, and she doesn't want to burn out that crystal. It was really expensive!
She calls back down to Ruri, "No luck at all! There's something in this place that's messing with the sensor device! Some kind of… Interference or something! Almost like static, you know? Doesn't seem normal to me, but who knows in foreign lands, right?" She then shrugs and has Pharaoh climb onto her back.
The dark-skinned woman begins running back down the lighthouse's side, and leaps to the ground, when Ruri indicates she should follow.
Nai pauses when Ruri indicates he should go to the doctor's clinic. Sending him to a place with lots of injured people? Potentially bleeding? That does not seem wise given his 'condition' and the very reason he came here. "Perhaps you should go to the clinic instead, Ruri-san? In the event that the worst has happened, and your sister is harmed or… Worse, well you may be the only one who can… Identify her. We will, of course, continue to hope this is not the case, but it is better to provide for the possibility, correct? I happen to have some copies of Rinako's photograph from her personnel file on-hand so I can provide visual reference while I question people. I thought it prudent to be able to show who we are looking for in the event that she was seen passing through but her name was not known."
The cloaked and hooded man produces a sheet of paper with Rinako's photo printed on it from inside of his cloak somewhere. "I have more if Kara-san requires one for independent investigation." Provided that this is allowed, he then proceeds to make sure Ruri obtain directions to the clinic after paying the dockworking youth, before turning and heading back to the docks to ask around with a photo of his own. And if people prove to be reluctant to divulge information… Well, Nai has WAYS of making people talk.
With his newfound wealth freely offered by the younger of the Rurohashi twins, practically the whole wad of cash, tucked into his pocket, one might expect the male to go back about his business. Instead, he heaves the coils of rope onto the deck, cups a hand to his mouth, and yells out while giving his intended destination the middle finger, "HEY, HEADS! I QUIT! I'M GONNA GO PAY OFF MY DEBT AND REOPEN MA'S SHOP!" The teenaged boy is already running headlong down the docks, dodging spools, people, and nets, bare feet practically kicking up dust as he makes tracks into the village.
It would be easy enough for Ruri to find where the doctor's office is, as everyone in town knows! There are only two qualified medical practicioners on the entire island, and both of them work out of the same seven-room building. The building is single-storied, buried right in the heart of the town, between a weaver's shop and the courthouse. Bland and rather unassuming, a neutral eggshell tone on both the inside and outside, one of six nurses points the newly-arrived chuunin towards the morgue, which was a converted walk-in freezer. There, the physician stands next to a body in a white lab coat, beard upon his grizzled face, the sleeves shoved up to his elbows, revealing tattoo'd forearms. The body on the table was female, judging from the shape of the chest and hips, though covered by a sterile white blanket. A mass of dark hair spills out from under the sheet, over the edge of the table, hanging down.
"Eh?" The old codger pulls on a pair of spectacles as he looks up towards the open door. "Ye can't be in here, lass. Unless…" His gravelly tone softens only slightly. "Ye're here ta' identify th'body?"
Asking around near the docks would produce nearly the same results that talking to the former-cabinboy had: most everyone here had seen the woman in the photo, many of them even knew her name. A few mentioned that she'd been interested in the lack of fishing and the odd weather, sometimes taking a ship out every now and then. But storms wrecked many, and others went missing on perfectly clear days. Very few survivors were recovered from either, as not many ships went out to fish lately. Catches were slim and the dangers seemed to be growing. Those survivors that were brought back almost always babbled incessantly about 'demon sharks'.
Moving further inland provides more fruitful results! "Oh, yeah, I seen her." The man was reed-thin and shirtless, a sail-maker who lived along one of the paths leading inland, near the edge of the village. He turns his head from where he sits outside the squat hut, spitting atop the pile of all the other loogies he'd hawked up recently. "Comes by here every day or so. Goes up to the top'o the mountain! Where Kokuoukabutomushi-sama's s'posed to live. Ain't seen her in a couple'o days, though. Cute kid. Owes me five ryo! Tell'er I aim to collect next time'I see'er."
Ruri looks at the form on the table. Maybe the lighting is poor or maybe it's great. Either way she can tell without looking under the sheet. She knows the shape of her sister's body as well as her own — if not better, given that looking at one's own body can leave mental 'blind spots'. Still… She can't help but at least check the face. "We're looking for my sister. She looks a lot like me, only she has both of her eyes and she eats everyone's food and doesn't pay anyone back and she loves to swim and sleeps just about all day, and she complains >constantly<, and she is always hanging out with kids younger than herself, and she is ridiculously strong, and not very smart, and—" she goes on and on and on, until finally… "Seen her?"
Ruri lifts the sheet to make sure of the face… And she may not like what she sees, but at least she'll know for SURE.
Kara follows after Ruri, thinking it odd that Nai would decline to head to the medical center like that… But his reasoning makes sense, so she lets it go. She keeps Pharaoh on her back for now, because she might need him again, but no doubt gets odd looks if not signs of revulsion from these people that >don't< live around Kara all the time and are >not< used to seeing dessicated corpses. When they reach the clinic, Kara looks around casually for signs that Rinako has been here. The morgue is where they are directed to rather immediately, but she is not sure why they would do that if they thought Ruri was her sister. And they would have >had< to think that, since they haven't >met< Ruri before, and thus have no one else to associate her face with!
"I don't see Rinako-chan anywhere, Ruri-chan. We should go see how Nai-san is doing." She is oddly reluctant to remain here. It can't be the dead people that are freaking her out, can it? That's supposed to be Ruri's thing!
Nai is quite relieved he does not need to 'persuade' anyone to talk. The rumors of 'demon sharks' gives him pause. The 'Living God' was but ONE of the deities worshipped in this general area of the Land of the Sea. There were others, and given the proliference of sharks at sea it made sense that a Shark God would come into the minds of the people at some point. There was one Shark God that was known to just about everyone who dwells on or near the coast, let alone on islands, regardless of the geographical borders of one country or another. 'O-Same', or 'Shark King', is said to be a shark large enough to swallow an entire ship without even having to stop to bite. He can smell blood in the water from half a world away, and anytime any of his sharky brethern die in the water he KNOWS.
There are many myths and legends about O-Same, but they were thought by Nai to be only that. But if one mythological being could be real, why could another not be? Why could a 'mere animal' not be a wise and ancient being instead of an unthinking beast? Nai does not know. But he has lived for far too long to dismiss the possibility out of hand. Still, that is not immediately relevant to the mission at hand, so he proceeds with his inquiries until he gets a more solid lead.
"Kokuoukabutomushi-sama, you say? A local deity?" Nai considers himself rather well-educated, but even he has never heard of this PARTICULAR being. "Can you recommend a good path to take to the top of the mountain?" Nai draws out a black bag from his cloak and produces a handfull of coins. Maybe about 25 to 28 ryo. He then offers the money to the man and says, "For Rinako-san's debt, and for your time." Assuming he is given adequate directions, Nai bows to the man and departs to find his companions.
Thankfully, at least for Ruri's ability to eat later, the face beneath the sheets was not horribly managled. It was that of a middle-aged woman, though her skin and lips were blue, suggested a water or cold-related death, and seemed to be at peace, with closed eyes, a lax expression and a bit of seaweed stuck to her chin. The burly doctor listens to the young woman's description before grunting an affirmative, then turning towards his tray of autopsy tools as if he didn't intend to answer beyond that. Just when it seems he's fit to ignore the Sunagakure chuunin without further prompting, he pipes up.
"Sure, sure, I seen tha lass. Asked if she could have a 'sip' o' the lemonade and then drank the whole pitcher! Ran up quite the tab at the restaurant, I hear tell. Cold-cocked some lubber down on the docks and then brought him in here. Had to wire his jaw shut. Suited me jus' fine. Bloke never was no good. She yer sister, huh?" He looks blankly at Ruri as he lifts a thick cutting scalpel. "…I don' see it. Anyway, the lass came in here, o', musta been six or seven days ago, askin' to see survivors from some o' the shipwrecks. Interested in the fishing n' shipwrecks, I reckon'. Awful weather. Unnatural. Ain't really seed her since. Popular theory is she's either a siren wid' legs, an angel come to save us all, or a gorgon with a false face n' a penchant o' pluckin' out men's eyes and suckin' their souls clean outta them! Last I heard, she was crawlin' up mountains and hirin' out ships."
"Hnh, dee-etee?" Back at Nai's location, the old sail-maker tries out the apparently new word on his tongue, before turning his head to the side and, with another 'spitooee', slinging more black saliva onto the hard-packed ground. He was getting quite the puddle there! "He's s'posed to live on up there in a deep, dark cave. Have to ask someone more into that stuff th'n me, though! I jes' know he's some kinda 'guardian spirit' or some rubbish. He comes when things are bad in the isles and sets 'em a'right. Don't know what he's waitin' fer then! Things seem plenty bad right here today. Though all these storms're pretty good fer b'zness."
The skinny old man takes the money gratefully, bowing his head in thanks, before providing directions inland. Following the path beyond his house, and the few houses that live beyond him, would bring one to the interior of the island. There it was a matter of finding and following the northern game trails. Not any man-made paths that went up there, considering it was almost a half-day's hike.
Ruri nods to the doctor and says, "Thanks, dokuta-san. I can't promise anything, but if we find out anything about what's causing the storms or how to protect against them we'll let whoever is in charge of this village know before we leave. Unnatural weather patterns are not something you just have to live with. And they are often a precursor to something even more severe…" She is probably thinking of the earthquakes and sandstorm that assaulted Sunagakure, which lead to a siege, and then an army of undead attacking. She shivers slightly, remembering their dry, cold, rough flesh, the feel of their teeth biting into her flesh, the stare of sightless eyes and the echoes of the tortured moans of the damned…
For a moment she flinches away from the corpse on the table, thinking she saw it move. But it's just a dead body. Even so, Ruri gets the distinct impression that if she waits around long enough, the eyelids will open. So she bows once and then departs. "Let'sgo,Kara;we'releaving," she says hurriedly as she walks out of the morgue. Sometime later, they've met up with Nai and presumably been told what information he has gathered. Then she hmmms. "Not sure why Rinako would be going up to some mountain to look for a 'guardian spirit', if that's what she's doing. But if she thinks there's something up there that can potentially stop these storms… I'm pretty sure she'd do it. Then again… This isn't her Village. These people aren't her family. Why does she care about them? She has stated more than once that her loyalty is to Sunagakure, and no other place." She shakes her head.
"There must be something going on that we don't know about. But ultimately, we're going to have to go up that mountain to find the truth. We don't know where those boats she hired were heading to, but if we can find any clues on that front we can investigate there too… Assuming we don't find her on the mountain. Any questions or suggestions?" Ruri looks towards Kara and then Nai.
Kara is still in the dark about Ruri's phobia of dead things. For someone with as much ingenuity and creativity as Kara, she fails to notice things about the people around her pretty often. "Uhh… Okay, Ruri-chan. You don't have to rush though. If she's okay, then there's no emergency, right? We should take our time and figure out the best solution to finding her!" But Ruri is already gone. Sighing, Kara bows to the doctor and then follows after.
Sometime later, they get the run-down on the situation from Nai. "Ka--Kabuomubu--I can't even say that name! What a ridiculous name for a kami! Anyway, is this that 'Living God' you were talking about on the trip here, Nai-san? Or is this a different one? Because if it's the same one, then I think we might have an answer as to why Rinako came here or was brought here. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. But I think the kami might be 'immortal' because it can possess people and so continue to live through the centuries by body-hopping. And who else have we met with an ability like that? That's right! Sheex! He had to have gotten that from >somewhere<, right? So maybe they want to possess Rinako and gain cosmic power from her—Uhh… Unique nature!" Kara looks around quickly to make sure no one is listening.
"Anyway… Stealing bodies seems to be a recurring theme with these 'immortals', so it just seemed to make sense if it was a jutsu or something and the person who made it lives here. It's too much of a coincidence that the other guy who wanted immortality was after her, and then we have some kind of 'god' that is 'living' and is well-known for immortality. Just watch! I'll bet you 500 ryo I'm right!"
Nai does indeed meet up with everyone after getting the information from the spitting guy, and does indeed relate that information to the team leader and Kara. "I have no questions. I am prepared to depart when you are, Ruri-san." Then Kara goes off on her conspiracy theory. Nai knows about the Land of Waves incident, of course, along with the trip that Team 01 made to the Other World, where they met a 'good' Sheex. He has to wonder if perhaps it was the use of the possession jutsu that made this world's Sheex evil by driving him insane… And if someone is trying to use it on Rinako… She would be in danger. But he also feels that the developer of the possession technique is NOT here on this island. Further, the 'Living God' he is looking into is NOT spoken of in ANY myth to be capable of possession, nor is the name Kokuoukabutomushi associated with that deity by any means. Nai has studied this particular deity very thoroughly.
Still, he says to Kara, "As you say." Then he just stays quiet and waits. He is eager to get going. Finding Rinako is a priority, but meeting an ancient being that might be like himself… That is something that makes him very, very motivated to succeed.
Meeting up with each other proves easy enough. After all, the islands of this small country were remote enough that most outsiders who strayed from the docks could be picked out rather easily, and asking directions from the locals can only speed up the process. The group is together and the plan is made: to scale the large mountain and look for further clues as to the whereabouts of Rurohashi Rinako. Before they can fully set out and exit the village, however…
A large groaning is heard, deep and coming from everywhere at once. It may take a moment, but it soon becomes obvious that no person is making this sound: it is coming from the earth itself. It starts as a small shuddering, but like a shockwave coming from the sea, the earthquake only picks up power and moves inland, starting at the docks. A lave wave, and then another crashes into the ships at moor, slamming them against piers. Some break, others do not. Structures begin to collapse, and at least one of the dock's foundations crumbles beneath the strain, sending men tumbling into the violently-swirling ocean.
Inland serves no better, cement, stone, and earth cracking in places, as if the very ground below them were being drug first one way, then another. A ceiling collapses, prompting several horrified screams from it's residents, the walls of stone buildings crumbling down, crushing some, injuring others. People run every which way, some swallowed by the fury of the earth, others hit with falling rubble, some merely tripping and falling, racing for shelter. Grass huts collapse, but do little damage on their own until several fires break out from the flammable building material suddenly being cast into contact with flames.
Disorder and panic begin to spread, and still the shaking does not stop, the earth protesting and upheaving as if the very island itself were to be torn apart. Buildings and vessels alike begin to go up in flames as the fires spread, the waves continually smashing against the docks, sweeping yet more out to sea. And then it's over.
The sea is the first to calm, the waves ceasing, and the ground begins to lessen it's shuddering, turning into a minor tremor, and then lying still. All is silent, before shouts of 'Fire!' begin to ring out. Many people begin scrambling to form a brigade with which to fight the growing flames, lest the unchecked burning engulf the entire village. Others begin searching franticly for separated loved ones. Captains on the docks begin to take stock of their men, and sending those that can be spared to help the village or other ships which had not fared so well in the face of nature's onslaught.
Overhead, dark clouds begin to gather over the waters, thick, threatening, holding the promise not of life-giving rain, but of dangerous storms, condensing and forming much more rapidly from the previously-clear sky than should ever happen in the natural world.