Date: January 29, 2013
Continuing their investigation into the disappearance of Inuzuka Sachi and Ayashi Jirou, a team of Konoha nin stops into a small village and finds more than they bargained for.
"Finding Sachi - Part 3: Track Down, Beat Down"
// Land of Fire, near the east coast//
About a week ago, Inuzuka Gijou was found at this very spot, unconscious, wounded, and clinging to his life. He was rescued by Atsuro and Taiki, who had come across him while investigating his disappearance, as well as that of his nin-dog partner, Sachi, and the other ninja patrolling with him, Ayashi Jirou.
But after he recovered, Gijou revealed something rather startling: the patrol wasn't attacked or ambushed; Jirou turned on the Inuzuka duo, abducting Sachi and leaving Gijou for dead. Armed with this new knowledge, Atsuro and Taiki have returned to pick up their mission where they left it. It's much more dangerous this time, though, and they've got a full team with them now, including the hopefully formidable Ataru and Hideaki. If they want to bring Jirou to justice and rescue Sachi, they're up against at least one enemy ninja.
Atsuro and Taiki have led the team to the spot they discovered Gijou, forcing them to give up the pursuit. There was some worry that they wouldn't be able to pick up the trail again, given how long it's been since they were last here, but as Atsuro and Taizen step into the clearing, they sniff the air a little and Atsuro declares, "We're good. Scent's still here." He pauses, "Hopefully it'll take us all the way." Certainly a fair hope. Many in the Inuzuka clan and Konoha administration are sceptical that they'll ever be able to find the remaining members of the patrol and put an end to this matter.
Atsuro gestures for everyone to move forward, with himself and Taizen on point, Taiki bringing up the rear to make sure he doesn't miss anything, and Ataru and Hideaki in the center to respond to danger from any direction. Off they move, further into the woods.
Ataru didn't like hearing that someone betrayed a fellow member of the village. It was something that just shouldn't be done. With that in mind, Kyouki was bristling at the whole thing, more than ready to bring to justice the one who would betray a team mate. Ataru didn't have the spear out yet. Simply as he ran faster without having to worry about a stick slowing him down. That silent confirmation that he would at least start off with the weapon in the upcoming conflict was given though. This guy was going to pay. So, within the group between Atsuro and Taiki, he'd give a nod in agreement. He was ready for whatever might come, hands balled into fists. It was just a matter of catching up to the guy, then Ataru would deliver the pounding.
Although he has more experience on less dangerous missions, as of late Hideaki has been considered for more serious assignments, and now he finds himself with a team he knows little on a perilous assignment. He stays astride Ataru, between Atsuro and Taiki as ordered. He does his work in silence, and has not said much of anything since leaving the village, but his eyes vigilantly scan the surrounding area. He seems to be finding nothing worth bringing to the attention of the others, however.
Taiki and his two ninken seem determined, but the sheer, tightly conrolled anger in his voice shows he's been in on this search from the beginning. His face is grim as he looks to his two ninken, who wimper confirmation. Frankly, he doesn't care what the elders of the Inuzuka think, though he does give more weight to Konoha's administration. Still, he's pulled through rougher situations than this before, so he's more than ready. Having dealt with traitors before, this has proven to be one of Taiki's stronger issues. Traitors are scum.
As Atsuro notes the scent is still there, Taiki nods in agreement. "It's still surprisingly strong," he says surprisingly calmly. He looks at Atsuro meaningfully, as if asking if he is smelling what Taiki smells. "Still, we should hurry." If anything, his face looks even more determined than before. Thus his two ninken fan out a little, still in line of sight, following behind the main group.
GAME: Save complete.
The ensuing walk through the forest is relatively peaceful. There aren't any traps left behind, and they don't get ambushed. It seems like they'll be simply following the trail for a while, so Atsuro figures he may as well strike up a conversation and see where the team is at. He's a jounin now, and that means keeping aware of the subtler aspects of leadership, like morale.
"They might have taken a turn somewhere up ahead," he announces, "But if the path continues like this, we might actually end up at the coast." He figures he'll talk to Hideaki first. He doesn't know this guy, and he's remained a closed book so far. "You okay?" he asks, looking back to Hideaki, "You haven't spoken up much. If you need a break or something, we can stop real quick." He grins a little, "Or if you're just the strong silent type, that's fine too."
Next is Ataru. "You certainly seem determined," he notes. "But we were hoping to capture Jirou alive, if we can. So, you know, don't /spar/ with him or anything."
Taiki only gets a nod. If his behaviour is any indication, his thoughts are almost identical to Atsuro's at this point. A mere glance is enough to say everything, really.
After another hour at a reasonable pace of walking (an hour and five minutes if they did take that break), the woods thin, then disappear completely. And not far away in front of them is a settlement. They are indeed on the coast, and it's a little fishing village. It looks pretty ordinary, though it's got a newish-looking wooden palisade and watch tower. The scent continues in the direction of the village, so Atsuro leads on. As they reach the gate, a man armed with a naginata steps out in front of them. "Halt," he says, "This is the village of Ikki. What is your business here?" He looks out over the group, checking out each member appraisingly.
"We're looking for two missing persons," says Atsuro, "Can we speak with your leader?"
Ataru would continue looking around, of course at this slow pace, it wasn't like he'd need to break.. ever. A grim smile is given towards Atsuro. "Actually mate, I ain't gonna kill em, I know that fer a fact.. Kyouki says that justice has to be served and that means bringin em in fer a trial.. so.. yah.. I might spar em.. just a lil.." Chuckling lightly, he'd shrug, still determined, but that sense of justice about Ataru was almost palitaple. Seems to be a side-effect of the oni that's taken him over?
"Nothing to say," Hideaki replies with a curt shrug. He then adds, pointedly, "Yet."
And so they take no break, continuing on with Hideaki still in silence. When they reach the village, Hideaki's eyes are drawn to the palisade and watch tower. He bows politely at the guard. After a brief hesitation, he finally breaks his silence after Atsuro's makes his request. "Apologies for interrupting, but it looks like you have increased your defenses lately. Have you had trouble?"
Taiki nods at Atsuro's first spoken observation, but remains silent. He doesn't really know Hideaki either, so for right now its more observation than anything else. Taiki is likely slightly famous in Konoha, and if anyone hears about him, one of the first things, other than being central to uncovering a traitorous plot, that people hear is that his is somewhat quiet for an Inuzuka, quiet and formal toward those he doesn't know. He is really known for being different than most Inuzuka, save in battle, where he becomes a force of nature, terrible to behold. And right now, he has his game face on.
Though the mission perimeters indicate catching Jirou alive, he kind of hopes the man will resist, though he'll be likely looking after Sachi than doing anything else. It would be nice to vent some frustration on somebody's spleen after all. Those thoughts are interrupted however by the presence of the guard didn't seem to catch him by surprise. So far, everything is normal, and to be expected. Since Atsuro is leading however, Taiki decides to let him speak for the group, and instead focuses on looking non-threatening. Well, non-threatening for him, anyways.
So it seems like Hideaki's quiet by preference. Okay, Atsuro can live with quiet. He can also live with Ataru not killing Jirou, even if he would have preferred a promise for no sparring. And Taiki does indeed seem to be on the same page as him, although he might not think so if he knew about that spleen thing.
In any case, Hideaki's observation seems to catch the guard unprepared. "I thought you were looking for a missing person," says the guard. He glances over to the watch tower for a moment. Another guard looks down from the tower at them, also armed with a naginata. "Bandits," says the guard, "Anyway, the village elder's right this way." He turns to head into the village and waves the team in after him.
He takes them on a brief walk through the village to a house slightly larger than the rest, and knocks several times on the door. "Elder Tetsuda," he calls in, "Four visitors for you… and some dogs, also."
Ataru was quiet once they got to the village's gate, his attention focused on what was hand, as well as ignoring Kyouki's cries to be summoned to met out justice. Maybe it was because of this focus, chakra gathered for any potential conflicts, that he noted the looks others were giving him. Frowning, he'd continue to keep quiet, simply watching the others. If Ataru noticed it? You better believe he figured the rest of them did. Afterall, he knew in general, he was oblivious to such things, instead being the muscle you bring along when you want a beaten bloody body at the end. Hands would clench, stopping to stare at the elder's building. Something was off. Really off. It was just a matter of figuring out.. what.
Hideaki's brow furrows at the guard's defensive answer. He does not argue further, though, following for the moment. His eyes continue to scan the camp, however, and finally he steps up to Atsuro and taps him on the shoulder. He does not say anything at all to the team leader, just darts his eyes and then shoots the jounin a look of worry. He then takes a couple steps back from the door, and braces himself to put even more distance should something more unfriendly than a village elder be inside.
Taiki gives the guard a small smile, one that wouldn't look out of place on the face of a subordinate shinobi, subordinate to Atsuro that is. He follows the group, still unconsciously taking up the rear guard with his ninken partners. But something doesn't seem right, it reminds him too much of a certain mission with Hitoshi and Berii, in what seems like a lifetime ago… Remembering how things were then, and how they are now, it almost seems like its come full circle. Only now he's an elite chuunin, and a fledgeling med-nin. He watches everyone carefully, but appears to fidget with his outfit slightly. The only sound he gives out is a quiet hmmm, that sounds introspective in nature. Those that know Inuzuka dogs could tell they're on alert, though to others they seem to be looking about just like any ordinary dog. Okay, one's the size of a small horse, and the significantly larger than standard breed, but it's the thought that counts.
Atsuro follows Hideaki's glances and gives the chuunin a subtle nod. He gives Taiki a quick glance when he makes that sound as well. There's a short wait, then the door opens, revealing Elder Tetsuda, a middle-aged man with thinning brown hair, a sturdy figure, and a formal-looking navy blue kimono. He takes a moment to look out at the group, then speaks. "I am, Tetsuda," he says, "I watch over Ikki. What is it you gentlemen need?" He pauses for a moment, then steps back from the doorway and gestures for them to enter. "Actually, let's discuss it inside. Of course, I'd prefer that the dogs— "
"No," says Atsuro, "We need them. We'll clean their paws off before they enter." Whatever the rest of the team has seen, Atsuro has obviously gotten a little suspicious of things here himself, especially with Hideaki and Taiki alerting him to possible trouble.
Tetsuda seems taken aback by the brusque answer, but he's back on his feet in a second. "Well," he says, "I suppose if you /need/ them." He waves the team into the house.
Atsuro pauses briefly to get any dirt off of Taizen's paws, then they lead on into the house.
Tetsuda leads them into a well-furnished living room. There's a warm fireplace and several couches arranged nearby. After Tetsuda gestures, Atsuro takes a seat on one of them. He pulls two photos out of a pocket. One of Jirou, a blonde man in his mid-20s wearing a Leaf forehead protector, and one of Sachi, a Jagdterrier, somewhat bigger than most dogs of the breed, with classic black and tan patterning. "This man and this dog went missing while on patrol," Atsuro explains, "We tracked them to this village. We were hoping you might be able to tell us about them."
Tetsuda's eyes widen slightly. "Yes," he says, "I've seen them both. They passed through here… about a week ago."
Atsuro leans forward a little. "You know where they went?" he asks.
Tetsuda shakes his head. "Not off the top of my head. But we get ships through here sometimes, and I think he left on one. We keep records in the basement." He gets up and waves for the team to follow. "This way," he says.
Ataru would shake his head slowly at the response, watching the elder as he greeted them. His attention was still on the village people, watching those outside while the dogs paws were cleaned off and he'd be the second to last to enter, considering Taiki was told to be last. He was totally on edge and would simply stand in the room by the door, hands in his pockets, his back leaning up against the door frame. Nothing inside here caught his attention, but his feeling of something not quite right was already active, so he wasn't going to let it go easily.
Too many warning signs. Hideaki has had enough ignoring his tightening stomach throughout this whole affair. Since they got to the village, nothing has seemed right. "I don't think the dogs would like a cramped dark basement, as we've said, can't be seperated," Hideaki interjects, lying smoothly. "Would we be imposing too much to ask that we wait here while you retrive the records?" He nods deferentially to Atsuro. "Assuming that's alright with you." He then scans Tetsuda's face for any reaction to his plan being challenged.
Taiki nods as so far things are playing out normally. But that is part of what is bugging him, it looks /too/ pat. Too perfect. Glimpses of subtle clues cause him to be cautious, saying as he cleans off his dogs' paws, "It will be just a minute for me, I have two partners to look after. But don't worry, I'll make it quick." Thus he lags behind the rest just a bit. It's a reasonable request, given the nature of the dogs with him. He even goes so far as to give them a very quick once-over with a curry comb, stuffing any loose fur into a bag on his belt for just such a purpose. Luckilly he grooms then daily, so there's not that much. Therefore he is the last to enter the room, just as Tetsuda wants to lead them to the records chamber and Hideaki speaks up. He just watches for the moment though, having had Hideaki already baited a trap.
Tetsuda freezes. Obviously he wasn't anticipating Hideaki's little move there. "Yes," he says, "Yes, I think that would be a good idea." Atsuro does his best to hide an eyeroll. They stop and Tetsuda continues on, down to the basement. Atsuro shoots Hideaki a little grin. "Well," he says drily, "Good thing they weren't trying to trick us."
The irony probably isn't lost on any member of the team, but Hideaki and Taiki least of all. A nearby door is thrown open, and more guards, dressed like the one at the gate and wielding naginata charge into the room. But those two would have been able to hear the sounds of footsteps and fumbling with the knob prior to that. There's four guards in total and they spare no time in dividing up to attack each of the four members of the team. One goes for Atsuro, twirling the naginata around like a helicopter blade. Another goes after Ataru, making a vicious slice at him. Then a third goes for Hideaki, starting out with two quick jabs of the naginata. Finally, the last one goes for Taiki, Making several sweeping strikes at him.
Ataru tensed as the doors opened, those men coming in were frowned at. While he was working on weapon defenses, this wasn't the time to put that into practice. Instead, he'd simply blink out of the way, landing on another guy's sword for a moment. "A'right.. ya'll just screwed up.. lemme show ya why.." For those who could keep up with that sorta thing, Ataru's entire body took on a layer of muscle, pistons forming in his limbs while he'd suddenly vanish from sight. Two men that were close together, his and Hideaki's attacker would be pummeled from all sides at once, easily splitting 50 hits between them, up down, left right. He was putting dents in the walls, ceilings and floors, but that didn't stop him from beating the ever living snot out of them. They had attacked first and asked for it.
"Yes," Hideaki agrees with Atsuro, voice deadpan. "We might have been in real trouble surrounded by less honest men."
Fortunately, the lousy acting gives Hideaki plenty of advance warning to make all the necessary preparations to have a speech prepared as the guards burst forth. "Anyone who would like to surrender would be both wise and well treated." Ah, talk of surrender will have to wait, though! There is a blade headed for him. Quick handsigns later, there is a gust of wind pushing light objects around, and in a puff, there are two Hideaki's. The blade harmlessly disperses the fake as the real one leaps away.
Meanwhile, Hideaki continues his rudely interrupted speech. "For the cost of answering a few questions you could be entirely safe. I assure you that you have the wrong allies in this affair." And then, to emphasize, he makes a few more handsigns and summons another wind-clone, this one violently hurling itself at Hideaki's opponent. And he's already getting pummelled by Ataru! Poor, poor man.
"I knew it," Taiki says as he finds himself under attack. Having seen this coming, he simply ducks down on all fours and takes a short hop to the side, effortlessly dodging the sword. Afterwards, he leaps at the man, long lightning spikes growing out of his hand as he attacks his attacker, sending about 1.21 gigawats of electricity through the man's system, effectively shutting him down. Just to be sure he /stays/ down, or at least less harmful, Taiki snatches the naginato away from the man and dodges, allowing Nozomi to pelt him with water needles. "Surrender or die," he says succinctly. Shinobu hasn't moved yet, because he hasn't needed to.
Suddenly, Atsuro gets the feeling that Hideaki might be his sort of person. Sadly, they don't have any more time to trade jokes. As the man comes charging for Atsuro, Taizen turns his head back, grabs a sword from his vest in his teeth, and hands it off to Atsuro, who bring it up to block the naginata. "Your leader is very courageous," he notes. Whatever the man intended so say goes unvoiced as Atsuro surprises him by pushing back harder against the naginata and managing to actually cut the blade right off somehow. Now he's just a guy with a stick.
It doesn't defend him very well against a quick slash from Atsuro followed by Taizen bowling him over. The remaining guards don't fair so well against the rest of the team either. Ataru's beatings go off without a hitch, Hideaki's clone gets a hit in, and Taiki's attacks, plus Hideaki's speech actually causes the one guard to surrender, willingly letting go of his naginata and running out of the building.
The three guards remaining stand fast, though. Atsuro's attempts to hit him with the ex-naginata, Ataru's makes a couple slashes at him and Hideaki, and Hideaki's turns his attention to Taiki, charging at him and swinging his weapon wildly.
Ataru is like a ghost, at least, comparted to those attempts to strike him, vanishing from the swing with that flicker, only to be back. A sudden rush towards the man had him hitting with a massive uppercut, aiming to knock the man off his feet, only to leap up after him, spinning into a smashing kick downwards, potentially sending him through that floorboard. He'd land on the other side of the guy, frowning. "ya'll dun get it.. ya dun stand a chance folks.. give up.. 'fore we actually have ta hurtcha.. eh?"
Another gust of wind as Hideaki steps through a sudden slipstream. There is a tearing of fabric as the weapon catches the chuunin's sleeve. He glances down at the tear, remarks simply, "Pity" and inhales sharply, as if puffing his chest up, but then makes a handsign in front of his mouth and spits out a globe of churning air at his uninvited tailor.
Taiki just sighs and shakes his head. Small fry should learn when they're outgunned. It's sad really. Taiki moves again, using his four legged techniques to his advantage to attempt to get out of the way. Unfortunately for this guard, he's not facing one opponent, but three. And the three have honed their teamwork to an artform. Shinobu finally moves, leaping at the man with lighting spikes from his claws only a little shorter than Taiki's was. Speaking of Taiki, a voice from just behind Taiki's new opponent speaks up as sickle materializes right around the guards neck. "Surrender or die. I won't repeat myself again."
Atsuro blocks his opponent's next attack, then exchanges a glance with Taizen. For a moment, the two seem to disappear from sight as they rush around and around the man, attacking from all sides, then giving him a couple of good gashes with two strikes to finish the combo off.
After that last round of attacks, there's only two guards remaining. Taiki's guard can't respond to the threat, because he's now lying on the floor unconscious. Atsuro's guard looks ready to fight until the end, but the other one is perhaps a little less devoted to the cause. He's glancing around, looking for an escape route, but he'll still fight if he has to. He does attack, charging for Hideaki, but it looks more like he's trying to clear a path than anything.
The other man hurls his stick for Taiki, then attempts to take down Ataru and Atsuro with a flurry of punches and kicks.
Ataru would grit his teeth, once more vanishing away from that potential attack by the man. The one who looked more to try and flee was let go. His focus was on the guy who was still putting up a fight, it was three feints in rapid succession, one from the left, one from the right, one from in front, to have Ataru coming in from behind the man with a sweep followed up with a crushing downward elbow. It should leave the guy wide open for further assaults by his team mates as most likely the guy would be stuck gasping for air after that elbow to the gut.
Hideaki seems inclined to oblige the retreat, stepping out of the guards winds through another minor slipstream… But sadly for said guard, he hits flesh. Hideaki winces as he bounces backward just as the blade slices through his side, just above his hip. Thankfully, the blow is not nearly deep enough to threaten any vital organs.
Hideaki's eye's narrow, he hand signs quickly, and a buffetting wind clone throws itself at the retreating guard.
Taiki simply shakes his head. Some people never learn. "A stick? Really?" he says as lighting orb form at this feet and hands, allowing him to 'skate' his way out of the situation even faster than before. He uses this speed to augment a leap that sends him careening into this newest attacker, his improved lightning claws flaring as they run down the man's body, sending massive amounts of electricity into Taiki's newest victim. Taiki meant what he said, he wasn't offering any more chances. This guy would die.
The retreating man is knocked over by Hideaki's wind clone. Thanks to (un)fortunate timing, he ends up ramming into an end table, and they both fall to the floor with a crash. He survives, but the recovery is likely to be a long one.
As for the remaining guard, he is simply out of luck. After suffering the combined attack from Ataru, Taiki, and Atsuro he simply stands there for a moment, then collapses, dead.
Atsuro takes a moment to look around, then sheathes his sword. "Everyone okay?" he asks. In fact, everyone but Hideaki has gotten away without a scratch. Noticing his light wound, Atsuro gestures for Taiki to take a look at it. As for him and Ataru, they head down the stairs. As is probably expected, Tetsuda has made his escape by now, whether by some secret passage or one of the less-hidden exits to other parts of the house. But apparently he was partly telling the truth. They do indeed find a store of records down there, and after a little bit of searching, they find a record with the right date which mentions a man and a caged dog. Good news, but when they get upstairs, there's some worse news.
The whole adult population of the town, it seems, has been alerted to what's going on in the house. At least, judging by the banging on the front door and yells coming from outside. The team has what it came for, but there's still the matter of escaping the village.