Date: September 23, 2014
Takeo is asked to take a team to investigate reports that one of Konohagakure's more important mines has come under attack. There are fears that the metal, which is used to provide for Konoha's weapons needs, may be taken by the Silence. In any case, it needs to be dealt with!
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"The Iron Heist - Part 1: Into the Mine"
"Alright. Here's the long and short of it," says Takeo, who seems to be a little more serious than is usually the case. "With the Silence threat, we've had to be watchful of every unusual crime going on, and this is definitely qualifies. One of the village's mines is being preyed upon by someone, or someones. At first, ore just vanished a bit at a time. Now, as of yesterday, the miners were violently driven out by what sounds like elemental jutsu. Spit a fireball into a mining tunnel and you can guess how pleasant the results are."
Takeo continues as he rolls his shoulders into a stretch, "I don't know where all of this leads, but I know it begins for us at that mine. The ore they're stealing is used to manufacture weapons for the Leaf. Who would want to ensure we have a weapons shortage at the moment, eh?" Nodding once at his own silent conclusion, he says, "We're going to go down there and ferret them out. It'll be dangerous, particularly since we don't know exactly what we can do, but we can't pass up a chance to catch them while they're pinned down in one place."
Always trying to be the reasonable one, Kenta offers some alternative explanations. "It could just be bandits or a group of missing nin. It doesn't have to be the Silence," he points out in his naturally softly voice. "On the other hand, the chances of it being the Silence isn't such a low one. We also need to find out what's going on anyway, since this isn't something that should just be allowed to continue." Kenta frowns at the thought of what would happen if an ore shortage occurs, especially when it's most needed by the village. He methodically pats down each pocket of his protective vest, the holsters attached to various limbs, waist pouches, medical pouch, and backpack to make sure that they're all fully stocked. Nothing important seems to be missing, so he nods his readiness. "Unless we're going to be able to get more intel here, we should investigate thoroughly ourselves as soon as possible."
Atsuro and Taizen are nearby. Taizen is sitting on his haunches watching Takeo with careful attention, while Atsuro stands at his side, arms folded over his chest and one finger tapping lightly on the opposite arm as he listens to Takeo's explanation of the situation. He speaks up once Takeo is finished. "It could be the Silence," he agrees with Kenta, "But you might be jumping to conclusions. There could be any number of reasons for someone trying to seize a mine. Plus, I don't remember any reports of them doing that in another country." He shrugs, "Of course, it might not matter that much in the end. As far as getting the mine back goes, we stay as cautious as possible until we're sure it's secure. We shouldn't get slack just because it /might/ not be a terrorist group." Taizen adds, "But we should try to discover who it is during the mission. That information could be useful to the village."
"I'm not gonna be one to claim that I know much about ore. This stuff is supposedly really pure, though, which is why it goes to Konoha's weapons." Takeo nods toward Kenta as he says this. "We're doing the village a favor, whether or not it's the Silence. See, from what I've heard, the miners just dropped everything and ran. Didn't bother to take the ore they'd already dug up with them, so whoever drove them out just has to haul it away. Fortunately, this just went down a short time ago."
Takeo stands from the rock he'd been crouching upon and steps down. "Thanks for coming along, Jounin," he says to Atsuro. "My entire time's been a little hard to find, lately. Anyway. I asked you all to meet me here because the mine's just down the way." Indeed, there's a path ahead leading down to a rockface. He starts along his way, commenting, "This isn't exactly the ideal place for me to fight, a dry mine. I've got a little extra water on me, but …"
Kenta scans the area alertly as he starts to follow Takeo. If someone's been preying on the mine, there could be sentries and ambush points set up to. He slips a hand into a pocket to draw out a Seal Barrier tag, which he keeps in his hand to shave off the fraction of a second needed to get it if they get attacked. Even a fraction of a second can make a big difference in a battle between shinobi. "Don't worry, Takeo. We have Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai with us. They can take care of almost anything thrown at them. I've been practicing a lot also, so I'm getting better at covering people's backs," Kenta announces seriously with a grim expression on his face. "I even lasted a little while against Atsuro-senpai in a spar lately, with Tsukino's help. Umm… Atsuro-senpai was handicapped and the rules for winning were a bit lax, but it was still difficult." Just a little too late, the young medic-nin glances back to make sure that Atsuro's actually ok with him mentioning the spar's outcome.
"You are most welcome, chuunin," says Atsuro cheerfully. He holds out a hand for Takeo to shake, "I'm Atsuro, by the way. And my comrade is Taizen." Knowing that he might end up paying for that one, he turns serious again pretty quickly. "You might be in luck," he says, "Mines actually use water for some things. They might have sprayed the tunnels to keep dust down or done some hydraulic mining. There might also be a tailings pond somewhere around here, but that would probably be outside the mine itself." He looks at Takeo, then Kenta, then Takeo again. "Are you impressed that I knew that?"
Kenta's mentioning of the spar doesn't meet with his disapproval at all. In fact, there's a trace of a smile on his face even though they're about to go fight in a mine. "Well," he says, "You did win. I forfeited, after all. Even if Tai had been helping me, I doubt I could have defended against that strategy…"
Takeo lowers an eyebrow skeptically at Atsuro's polite gesture. "Gimme a break," he grunts. "I think I know my mate. Just used your rank because it's a little strange for a Chuunin to be giving orders to a Jounin." Although he says nothing of how impressed he might be by the other Inuzuka's knowledge of mining, it's reassuring to know that he may not be entirely without ammunition.
"Sounds impressive. Too bad I wasn't there to see it. I've set my jutsu practice aside for a bit to try and work out mastering my last tail with Isobu," Takeo says. As they walk along, at the end of the path …
The mines. Although Konohagakure certainly has more than one such resource, this particular mine was valuable for its higher quality ore, useful in making weapons worthy of Leaf shinobi. It now sits seemingly deserted, with the miners obviously having fled in a hurry. Some mine carts rolled out on tracks are empty, but debris inside suggests they weren't that way when the workers left. Happily, there's also an abandoned map to be taken.
Beyond the threshold of the entrance is a yawning maw leading into dark tunnels beyond. Torches still burn, but they're in need of replacing, their light having grown dim without the workers to tend to them. Abandoned tools are scattered about, and similarly emptied carts can also be readily found. It seems that whoever's taking the ore started the easiest way, with the supply near the entrance.
"I -am- impressed, Atsuro-senpai. I don't think that a lot of people would know that detail or remember it if they did. It didn't even occur to me until you mentioned it," Kenta says with a broad smile on his face. The smile slips a little and he ducks his head with a faint blush on his cheeks when Atsuro said that he -won- the spar. "Umm… that spar… it was only technically a win. If Taizen-senpai had joined it, it would have been over in less than half the time, even with your self-imposed handicaps." The young medic-nin rubs the back of his head with his free hand. He clenches the one with the tag against his chest. "Umm… I guess we should pay attention to the area."
Kenta goes completely quiet when they reach the mine itself. All his attention is spent watching out for ambushes and clues, so there's no brain space left to dwell on the outcome of a spar that happened several days ago. He considers for a moment before he pulls out a kunai with a tag wrapped around the grip. It's better to be both armed and armed against danger in such a situation.
Only grinning at the apparent success of his ribbing on Takeo, Atsuro moves on. "I think it would be a good exercise for you and Kenta to fight me too," he says, "D — another person in your situation has used part of their power on me in a past spar, so you could even try that out." He shoots a little smile to Kenta, "I know some things about mining," he says, "An important part of the sword-making process, of which I am a huge fan. And I think your trick at the end there was pretty clever."
As they actually enter the mines, though, he shuts up finally. They've got a job to do, and he and Taizen have a pretty important one. If someone's going to sneak up on them, they need to be the first to know. The duo looks, listens, and most importantly, smells around the area as they walk in, on guard for anything unexpected.
Takeo appears amused in his own way, albeit by something else, as he hooks a clawed thumb over his shoulder at Kenta. "I called you my mate and he didn't even flinch. That's nice to know," he remarks. "I've got no problems with sparring against you alongside Kenta, but that 'other person' you're talking about is way more experienced than I am. Copper, even Kenta kicked my silver when we went to Kumogakure for the exams." Back to being serious. He has to remind himself that he's leading a mission, at times.
He looks around for a moment before heading over to the map he's spied and unfurling it. "Well, it's simple enough, at least. Straight tunnel to a T-shaped intersection, and heading east takes you to a big cave. That's where the best stuff is, looks like."
With respect to Atsuro and Taizen's sense of smell, it's a bit difficult to pick anything out from here. There's the scent of many people, no doubt the recently departed miners who fled the site. One might also pick up on the scent of ash, lending credence to claims that fire was used inside.
Whatever all that mumbo jumbo about mates concern, it's obviously well over Kenta's head. He doesn't even seem to catch the reference. Even if he has a clue what that meant, he's a little too busy scanning the area for danger to pay much attention to it. "I hope no one was following us. I don't want the entrance to collapse and trap us inside," he murmurs in as low a voice as possible. The words are barely audible, since they're pretty much whispered under his breath, but echoes carry far too easily in a place like a mine. If the intruders are still inside and they're not aware of the shinobi, it's important to keep it that way. Kenta tries to keep his footsteps as light as possible too to cut down the noise.
Holding up a hand, Atsuro quickly answers, "Now isn't really the best time to be talking about that." Then he adds, "And there's no shame in losing a spar. There'll always be someone who can beat you. And one of the reasons to be sparring in the first place is to get more experience. All you have to do is put away your pride for a little bit." He sniffs the air a little. "Nothing unexpected yet. Miners and a fire, that's all. I'll let you know if that changes." He looks behind him. "We probably should have checked around the entrance a little /before/ we went inside," he admits, "Don't worry though. If that happens, I've got a couple tricks up my sleeve." He and Taizen return to sniffing the air.
Takeo simply assents to Atsuro, "There's always a bigger turtle in the lake." He lowers his voice as they venture into the tunnel, saying to Kenta, "I doubt they'd do that. What're a few shinobi worth to them compared to all this ore? Sealing the mine means no treasure for them to haul off, and I'd bet they're working fast to do that before the Leaf send people. You know, like us." He grins over his shoulder, prominent canines apparent amidst flickering torchlight. Taking pause, Takeo lifts the map closer to one of said torches and says, "That first intersection isn't too far ahead now, or shouldn't be."
Still nothing, and it's not necessarily a comfort. The silence in the mine is eerie, and when paired with the dimness of the torchlight, it's a claustrophobe's nightmare.
Kenta doesn't look completely reassured, but he's slightly more relaxed after listening to Atsuro and Takeo's reasoning. Nevertheless, the closer they get to the intersection and the deeper in that they head, the more tense his muscles become. "This reminds me a little more much of the spiders. I hope we don't get another surprise like that…" he mumbles softly to himself. The reminder of that particular mission makes him look up to check the ceiling, even though the tunnels are a too low to hide giant arachnids. It doesn't mean that there couldn't be explosive tags or other traps placed on the ceiling. He takes a deep whiff even though his nose isn't as good as Atsuro's and Taizen's. It's a mistake, since he had to cover his face quickly to suppress a dust induced sneeze afterwards.
"Actually, that makes sense," says Atsuro, nodding, "If they're taking the ore, they want to do more than just shut down the mine entirely. And it's not as if miners couldn't get through some rocks dropped on the entrance. We'll probably be okay." He and Taizen don't seem concerned by the atmosphere of the place — the spider mission that's made Kenta nervous just reinforces to them that they've seen it all. "We will know what to do if there are spiders," Taizen points out. Atsuro pats the dog on the back, "Such a pro." He and Taizen do walk a little fast as they reach the intersection though. If the air changes here, they want to smell it before there's a chance for anything to happen to the rest of the team.
Ahead is a T-shaped intersection, with the original tunnel splitting into one which heads both east and west. However, that's not exactly your greatest concern at the moment.
FWOOSH! A shady figure in a cloak can be glimpsed down the eastern tunnel just before he spits out a fireball. Contained as it is within the narrow passage, the sphere becomes more of a dangerous jet of flame ready to burn away whatever flesh it should sweep over. A clever tactic, if cruel.
There was just enough warning to step back into the original tunnel and avoid the fiery river. The next time around, one may not be so lucky. It's at least clear now that there really is someone down here using jutsu.
Takeo quickly jumps back with his arms spread, ensuring that his companions also stop short of walking into the fiery breeze. "Well, bronze," he mutters as he pops open a corked gourd tied to his belt. He puts his back to the wall and waits until the flames dissipate, listening to the silence which once again dominates the mines.
"I don't think we want to walk into that," the Jinchuuriki whispers to his companions. "I wonder if he's still there, or if he moved deeper in. You smell anything, Atsuro, Taizen?"
"Ack!" Kenta exclaims as he backpedals quickly to avoid the gout of flame. He still has a defensive tag in his left hand, but who knows how strong the jet of flame is. Stone made a better barrier in this case. "Are there any other ways out of this mine or are we blocking the only exit? Unless there's another way out, they have to get rid of us to leave," Kenta whispers softly to his companions. He tightens his grip around the kunai on his right hand. On impulse, the young medic-nin sticks his hand out the passage just far enough for him to quickly toss the weapon down the way that the fire jutsu came from. He quickly withdraws his hand and makes a hand seal. The tag around the kunai's handle disintegrates as it explodes into a puff of poisonous smoke. If the shinobi's still there, he might have been caught by surprise. If he isn't, hopefully no harm done.
Both Atsuro and Taizen jump back from the passageway, narrowly avoiding the jet of flame and landing crouched a few feet back from the entrance. Takeo's request is barely even necessary and they're already back near the passage already, sniffing at the air. At first, they're careful not to go into the passage again, but once they've sniffed here, Taizen pokes his head in to sniff there too. "He's not there anymore," says the dog. Atsuro nods, "Moved away. But we can go in now. And we know what he smells like; that was his only chance to get the drop on us, and he blew it." They step back from the entrance once again, though, once Kenta sends in the poison. "That's a good point," he says, "It would be nice to trap them. But the tunnel goes two ways… we need some way of making sure nobody in one tunnel leaves while we investigate the other."
Takeo unrolls the map again and holds it up to one of the torches jammed into the tunnel wall. "The way we came in is the only exit," he confirms. "Looks like going west from here leads to a dead end. Going east takes us to another intersection. From there, the south tunnel is another dead end - fresh tunnel. North and east both wrap around into that big cavern." He reads quickly when under threat of being burned to death.
"I guess I'll go first. If I'm burnt, at least I'll regenerate. Well, maybe not from /all/ of something like that," Takeo says, rounding the corner despite the dangers. He isn't toasted, so it appears that Atsuro and Taizen were right. "He must've fled deeper in." With breath held, Takeo advances through the puff of poisonous air created by Kenta.
"They could be in the big cavern, but they could also wait in the dead end tunnel until we pass and then slip away behind our back," Kenta points out in a worried voice. The young medic-nin glances back at Atsuro and Taizen. "It's a good thing that you're here. It makes it harder for them to surprise us that way." He hurries after Takeo, pausing only momentarily to retrieve the kunai that he threw. The tag around it is gone, yet the kunai itself is still perfectly useable. He considers for a moment before holstering the weapon. Kenta wants to have that hand free to form seals, since all of his strongest jutsu relies on that. The defensive tag in his left hand will have to be enough as far as preparations go.
Atsuro peeks over Takeo's shoulder at the map. "The cavern's probably where they'd be," he says, "But they know about us, so they could try and trick us." He nods as Kenta points out how useful their sense of smell could be in that situation. "Tai and I could sniff in the direction of the dead end," he suggests, "If there's anyone suspicious there, they won't escape us. If not, we just continue on down to the next intersection." Since Takeo doesn't get burned to a crisp, the two step into the tunnel after him, then take a moment to smell for someone hiding in the dead end.
Fortunately, there's no death to be found in the dead end. The walls of the tunnel would suggest that digging there wasn't bearing fruit, and so the miners instead switched to the east. Takeo waits for the check in that direction to finish before he starts heading along toward the next intersection. The map is tucked safely away within his robe, lest it be burned by their nemesis.
"This doesn't exactly work out well for me at all," he mutters. "Tunnels aren't good for water, and neither is fire. All you get when you mix those is a big cloud of steam."
Takeo lifts a clawed finger to his lips and motions ahead, crossing his fingers to perhaps indicate that the intersection is near.
"If we find them all clustered together, I can try to knock them out with a jutsu. The effects might not last very long, but it'll give the three of you end time to fully disarm and capture them. I hope that they -are- in the big cave together. That'll make it easier," Kenta murmurs to his companions. He retrieves a tiny black pill from his medical pouch and pops it into his mouth. There's no sign of swallowing yet, so he might have kept the pill tucked under his tongue or against his cheek until he's ready to us it.
Once they've confirmed that the dead end is fine, Atsuro and Taizen turn around to follow after Takeo and Kenta. "If it comes to it," he whispers back to Takeo, "Just use taijutsu and try to stay out of the worst fighting. Let your team cover for you." He glances over to Kenta. "That's a good idea," he adds, "If we can take them all down at once, so much the better." Kenta's own preparations make him realize that he should also be ready for a fight. He takes a pair of ninjato from Taizen's vest and wields one in each hand. Then he gives Takeo a nod and he and Taizen. carefully move up to the next intersection to see what they can smell here.
Deeper into the mine, near the large cavern at its end, you encounter a cross-shaped intersection as depicted on the map. You already know from it that heading north from here should take you to said cavern, where the purest ore is mined. However, the shinobi would much rather cut you off here.
This time around, there's more than one of them. As you head into the intersection from the east, you notice another figure ahead. Same attire, but he's taller, more muscular. At the very sight of you, he makes a hand sign prompting the rock walls to close in and seal off the tunnel ahead of him. Why might he do that? Well, because of the return of our fire-breathing friend from earlier on.
He's a bit slow on the take this time around. You see him drawing a deep breath as he stands in the northern tunnel, facing you. Should one have a go at him, or take shelter from the fire and risk the earth manipulator sealing off the tunnel you'd arrived through?
"Well, there goes one of our routes," says Takeo with a blink as the larger shinobi seals the passage further east. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the other shinobi starting to take in a breath and acts fast. Ordinarily, Takeo would consider it dishonorable to let others cover for him, but Atsuro did offer a little guidance on matters of leadership through prior comments.
Quicker on the draw, Takeo takes a fast breath and then exhales a cloud of mist around the northern corner. The fire-breather is given pause, perhaps for inability to see, perhaps because the dampness in the air would ruin his jutsu and waste chakra. "Go," Takeo suggests.
The mist that Takeo exhales hides them momentarily from sight, but he's still reasonably sure that the enemy shinobi hadn't moved yet. He rapidly yanks three seal wrapped kunai from a leg holster and sends them whistling through the air. They disappear into the mist just as he activates the tags. A soft WHOMPH sound fills the tunnels as three small clouds of choking poison merges with Takeo's mist. It should be wide enough to hopefully overlap the fire user and cause some distraction.
With Kenta and Takeo creating that combination of mist and poison gas, Atsuro and Taizen are hesitant to go in there and hack the fire-user up just yet. Instead, they crouch down by the cavern wall on opposite sides, prepared for another possible incoming attack. "We can probably handle it," says Atsuro, glancing back to the sealed passage for just a moment, "Once we're finished with this guy. But it won't be subtle. And you guys'll need to be ready to act the moment we're through." Then he looks forward again, peering into the mist to try and get an idea of what's happened to the enemy they're dealing with here and now.
This time around, there's a response to the counter-attack by the Leaf shinobi. One can hear the fire-breathing shinobi cough in response to Kenta's poisonous jutsu, and the sound of his feet as they dash deeper into the mine. The only place left for him to go is the cavern at its very end.
"May as well follow him," Takeo suggests to Atsuro, pointing off to the north. "Sounds like he got a good whiff of whatever Kenta's dishing out. He'll probably need a minute to get the coughing out, even if he only breathed in a little, right?" He must be confident in Kenta, because he dares to round the corner and head into the mist. "Even if he could see chakra, all he'd see in this is a big cloud of … me." That doesn't last, unfortunately. One is past the cloud soon enough, if one chooses to go that way, and it begins to bend toward the cavern as anticipated. The end is near.
Kenta jogs after Takeo with his seal tag still gripped in his left hand. "They're probably together this time, unless the earth jutsu user's going to double back behind us. I hope that he can't unseal that other tunnel quickly or walk through walls or…" There's so many worrisome things about not knowing an enemy shinobi's exact capabilities. The young medic-nin tongues the pill tugged against the inside of his cheek to make sure that he hadn't swallowed it my accident. The pill's a tool that's supposed to help him, but if he swallows it too early and doesn't us it, he might be the one in trouble instead.
"What's the matter?" Atsuro teases, "Don't wanna be shown up?" Nevertheless, he stands up straight and follows Takeo into the mist. Taizen follows shortly after him, doing the same. "We're looking out for it," he comforts Kenta. Indeed, they're not just smelling, but looking and listening, determined to catch any tricks the enemy might have in store for them. And they're prepared to put a stop to them themselves, judging by the tight grip Atsuro has on his sword. Then he takes a deep breath of air before walking into the mist. Who knows how long that gas will hang around in the confined spaces of the mine?
At last, you reach the bottom of the mine, the large cavern from which the purest ore is extracted for use. Someone, probably the earth manipulator, has moved all of the worked ore from carts to a central pile in the room. It's beyond doubt that your arrival probably hadn't had a place in his labor plans.
Now driven back, the shinobi are at last forced to stand their ground without the benefit of convenient bottlenecks or other trickery. The firebreather is a shorter, thin man with black hair. His counterpart is quite a bit taller, muscular, with deeply tanned skin. Both of them wear black cloaks wrapped loosely around their bodies. The earth manipulator has a belt with many pockets, as well as what looks like a tube ideal for carrying a map.
They realize that they're short for options and assume stances appropriate for combat. Rather than surrendering, it seems they'll be making their last stand. The fire-breather does what he does best, spitting a fireball toward the party while the earth jutsuist projects a hail of rock bullets in the same direction. For his part, Takeo forms Isobu's shell upon his arms and crosses them, ducking behind to provide a shield for his allies so that they can spread out and attack. What the shell doesn't catch, his body endures.
When the group makes it to the cavern, Kenta's alert gaze confirms that both of the enemy shinobi are together. He gives the area a quick scan with his eyes, just in case there's something else hidden in the shadows. Whether there are or not, he's prepared to try to take them all out as planned. The attempt might fail, but the best of plans need to be reassessed all the time when faced with the type of uncertainty in front of them. In fact, things are on a rocky start right away, because the enemy preempt them with a vicious attack. Kenta snaps his left hand forward and lets the tag in it fly. The paper disintegrates, but blossoms into a vicious barrier that barely manages to shield him in time.
"Don't breath in," Kenta warns his companions after a quick glance to make sure that they're not badly injured. Then, he swallows the tiny black pill. The medic-nin starts to rapidly form hand seals once both of his hands are free. At the same time, he molds specialize chakra inside his own body to dissolve the pill. Kenta's head snakes forward and he blows -hard-. A wave of white mist heavily laced with sleeping gas streams outwards to fill the entire cavern, inducing fatigue and causing a soporific effect on anyone that breathes it in. The mist rapidly breaks down afterwards, clearing the air again.
Coming in at the rear of the group, Atsuro and Taizen don't have much to do at first, with the others blocking everything, then using another gas-based attack. So they take a moment to sniff the air again and make sure that there's no traps here. Then it's time to fight for real. "We'll take the earth guy," Atsuro says, "He'll be the fresher of the two." Brandishing his sword, he hops onto the top of the ceiling of the cavern, then runs along it with Taizen following along. Once they're directly above the earth-user, they release their chakra and let themselves drop down, adding the gravitational energy to a powerful swing of Atsuro's blades and Taizen's claws.
It's over as quickly as it began. With the invaders of the mine incapacitated, their jutsu are no longer a threat to the Leaf shinobi or to the workers, who can hopefully be persuaded to return. As well, though they moved a good deal of the ore somewhere, you also saved a heaping pile of the purest supply from being spirited away.
The shinobi say absolutely nothing in life or, as the case may be, in death. Our firebreathing friend passes out as a result of Kenta's gas cloud, and the earth manipulator falls to Atsuro and Taizen's might despite his hulk. However, that scroll tube on his belt works wonders. It contains an entirely different map, marking an otherwise obscure trail to another location in the nearby forests. This is where whoever they're allied with - the Silence? - might have received the ore, assuming it wasn't simply destroyed by the earth wielder's jutsu.
Another lead. The first step in resolving this threat began here, but it isn't the last to be taken by our Leaf heroes.