Date: December 27, 2012
When a Konoha patrol goes missing, Atsuro and Taiki are given the task of finding out what happened to them, but things quickly get complicated.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Finding Sachi - Part 1: Interrupted Pursuit"
Land of Fire, forest pathways
When an Inuzuka disappears, it often falls upon other Inuzuka to find them. A pair of Leaf nin have recently disappeared while out on patrol, and one of them was Inuzuka Gijou. His nin-dog partner, Sachi, has gone missing as well. Although these two are the clan's main concern, they've also been tasked with finding the other ninja, Ayashi Jirou. This incident has been a source of shame for the clan over the past few days, and while certain influential members of the clan are less than pleased to have Atsuro and Taiki in charge of the rescue effort, they're a good choice for this kind of mission.
The plan is nothing unusual. They've been given the route for the patrol, and they're going to follow it, looking for any sign of the missing ninja. After following the route for a little while, Atsuro and Taiki (and their partners) have found themselves in a lightly wooded area, where they're following a narrow, dimly-lit dirt path. From all sights and scents so far, the patrol followed the route just fine. But something must have happened somewhere along the way.
Taiki of course shook his head at the elder's attitude, as it is nothing new to him. Still, he noted who was objecting the strongest, and why, and would be be re-visiting the issue with them at some point. Assuming Atsuro took the front, Taiki would be running a back-point formation, with his partners to each side and ahead of him, while Taiki took the rear. They were quiet, focused mainly on their senses rather than trying to talking, at least for the moment.
The elders who objected to this team were part of the usual reactionary crowd who so often make life difficult for Taiki, and whom Atsuro is perennially disgusted with. Obviously, whatever objections they had weren't enough to prevent the selection. With Atsuro being a capable member of the Delta clan and Taiki having worked well with him before, there wasn't much to say that could truly convince anyone.
Atsuro and Taizen, both at the front of the group with one to the left and one to the right, continue along the path with Taiki and his nin-dogs shortly behind. Suddenly though, they stop and both begin to sniff the air. They've noticed — and Taiki's group might too — that the smell of vegetation is just a little /too/ strong around here. They've been wandering through the woods, of course, but it's like the smell of the leaves here has intensified. Atsuro and Taizen share a glance, then Atsuro kneels down, facing the side of the trail and grabs a handful of leaves. He picks out one and holds it up in front of his face. "Crushed," he notes, "On purpose. They all are." Indeed, a close inspection of the leaves will reveal that they've actually been picked off the branch, crushed, then scattered around.
"Someone's been clever," he deduces, "The scent disappears, so they didn't go any further along the path. But the leaves are so strong smelling, it's too hard to smell where they went." He starts scanning the area visually, "No way it wasn't on purpose. Any sign of where they went?"
Taiki and co look around, indeed noting the stronger scent of vegetation. "Likely they tried to mask their scent for some reason," Taiki says as Shinobu and Nozomi spread out a bit more. Nozomi suddenly 'wuff's,' calling attention to a nearby tree. Taiki approaches it and looks at what his partner is looking at, then kneels down himself. "Hmm… it looks like someone kicked up some of the litter around this tree," Taiki calls out. "Some of the fresher portions are on top. It could be they went this way…"
"It was definitely on purpose," Atsuro agrees, "Which isn't /great/. If these guys went missing-nin, that can only mean trouble." But whatever might be the case, they've got to investigate further before they can call this mission complete. Atsuro and Taizen walk over to check out the spot Nozomi indicates. "Guess they didn't /completely/ cover their tracks. I wonder…" He pauses to sniff at the tree. "They climbed up," he says, "C'mon."
And then he climbs up too, followed shortly by Taizen. From here, they can easily find the scent. The team continues on after the missing patrol until they reach another obstacle. And this one isn't quite so simple.
Atsuro is bounding along, jumping from branch to branch. Then suddenly he stops. Once Taiki's caught up, the reason should be immediately apparent. Ahead of them is a huge chasm. Huge enough that even a pair of ninja might have trouble with it. And of course, the scent leads right over it. "Any bright ideas?" Atsuro asks Taiki, "Or are we gonna try and jump it?"
Taiki looks at the ravine and seems to be measuring something. "I don't think I can make it across. Shinobu, maybe. Me…" he then seems to notice something, which causes him to strain his eyes as he gets a closer look. "Hello, what do we have here?" Tracing back to this side of the ravine, he notices something else. "Atsuro, that projection of rock on the far side of the ravine, isn't that a rope?" He then points to a projection near it on this side, then moves closer to it. "It was definitely rope, there's some strands here." He then narrows his eys again and adds, "There's some wire here, not sure where it leads…"
Atsuro squints, looking over at the rope, then at the wire. "Easiest way to find out," he says, kneeling down and taking the wire in his hands. It's fairly slack, but he's obviously intent on pulling it. "Back a few feet away," he says, "Just in case it's some kind of trap." He allows Taiki and the others to back off, then starts pulling the wire. And pulling, and pulling. Turns out that the wire is really long.
Or maybe it's a loop. The rope begins to pull away from the cliff and hover across the ravine towards the Inuzuka's side. Or that's what it looks like, but a closer look reveals the glint of wire. It seems to be part of some kind of pulley system. Less obvious wire used to carry across one end of the more obvious (but more supportive) rope. "Well," says Atsuro, grabbing the rope once this end has arrived. "Looks like we're at least as clever as them, eh?" He ties it to the rock protrusion, then tugs it a couple of times to make sure it's good. "Let's go one at a time," he suggests, "I've seen the way you eat. Can't be sure this thing won't snap." He gestures for Taiki and his dogs to move across.
Taiki backs away when Atsuro orders him to, then hmms as the rope is pulled across. "If they're intent on going missing nin, then leaving this system here was not very smart of them," Taiki observes. Once the rope is fastened, Taiki nods and then starts to move across, followed by the dogs, one at a time. He ignores the comment about his eating habits for now, but once he is across, he pauses and smirks. "You have no room to talk Sensei. None at all."
Once Taiki is across, Atsuro starts on his way as well, keeping his balance as he tightropes across the ravine to the other side. Taizen follows shortly behind. "I don't," Atsuro shoots back, "I need to eat a lot to maintain all this muscle. Obviously that isn't /your/ reason." Once Taizen's across, Atsuro uses the wire again, bringing the rope back in. "Not sure what they were thinking. But they must have known someone could find it. Anyway, hopefully I'm not cutting off our escape route," says Atsuro, "But if someone's in the area, I'd rather they didn't suspect someone else is here." He takes point again, leading Taiki away from the ravine as he picks up the scent again, he and Taizen sniffing their way along.
"And yet I haven't had a significant gain of weight outside what is normal for someone of my build yet," Taiki points out as he starts to sniff the air around them. "Just like it takes a lot of energy to be as muscle-bound as you are, it takes a great deal of energy to push your body speed-wise. All that running, jumping, sparring, and even studying burns energy pretty fast. Especially chakra use, and I use plenty of that," Taiki points out as they start to move again. "Hmm… there's blood up ahead. Not sure whose blood, but there is blood up ahead."
Atsuro opens his mouth to make another quip, but freezes. He smells blood too. Taizen whines a little and peers up through the trees ahead. "Yeah," Atsuro agrees, "If we're smelling it from this distance, there's… a lot. This could be bad." He takes a sword from Taizen and gestures for the team to move up slowly.
They creep forward and eventually come to a clearing. There, lying in the grass, is Inuzuka Gijou. His clothes are torn and blood-soaked. He would have known Taiki and Atsuro, if only in passing, but his face is nearly unrecognizeable, covered cuts and bruises. The rest of him is no better, and he has several deep stab wounds, which are even now still bleeding freely.
It's a grizzly sight, but hold on. If he's still bleeding, after all the time since his disappearance… "He's alive!" Atsuro exclaims. Quick as he can, he makes sure there's nothing else in the area, then kneels down beside Gijou to assess his condition as best he can.
Taiki looks at the dogs and says, "Guard." The two ninken break off and start patrolling the paremeter even as Taiki pulls out a scroll and produces a first aid kit. "I'm still learning, but I'll do what I can," Taiki says as he starts to try to assess the man's injuries on his own. A small amount of chakra seems to pool in his hands as he starts to bandage the man. It's not truly healing, as he's not that far yet, but it is allowing Taiki to avoid inuring the man further.
"It's amazing he's still bleeding," Taiki says as he starts to try to arrest the flow of blood. "Odds are, this is either recent, or he's already slipping into a coma. Atsuro, I need you to monitor his breathing and pulse while I work here…"
Well, Taiki's the expert here. Taizen joins the other dogs in watch duty, and Atsuro grabs Gijou's wrist to monitor his pulse. "What /can/ you do?" Atsuro asks, "Abandoning him isn't even an option. But he's only one third of our objectives. And I have a feeling splitting up isn't a great idea under the circumstances." He has a feeling he already knows what needs to be done. They'll have to call off the mission for the time being and take Gijou back to Konoha for better healing. But maybe Taiki has a miracle up his sleeve.
Taiki shakes his head but doesn't look up. Right now he's too busy trying to provide pressure bandages. "Not much. I haven't undergone my exercises on cellular regeneration yet, so the most I can do is make him safe for transport and stop the bleeding. If he's to have any chance for living, and for telling us what happened, we'll need to get him to the hospital stat," Taiki says as manages to slow down the bleeding. "There's a lot of blood here, which means if he's to live he'll need a transfusion. It almost looks as if he's been ambushed, so getting what he knows is going to be very important, which means we need him alive."
"Chase," says Atsuro, "Well, it was a long shot anyway. I was hoping we could pick up the scent again and keep going. But this guy needs us. And you're right; he could know something important." He takes one look in the direction they were heading before, then sighs and turns back. Once Taiki's got Gijou in better condition, he carefully picks the other man up, and the group makes its way back to the ravine. It's a little dicey crossing the rope with an adult male on your back (and Gijou has some pretty sizeable muscles himself) but they make it across. They'll return here and finish the job. But for now, the important thing is getting Gijou to safety.