Date: September 8, 2012
A mission assigned to an experienced Hunter-Nin and a newer Hunter-Nin leads them towards a dangerous part of the Land of Water not just for them but for anyone… But it is not to eliminate the rebel threat therein. Only to take back what is the Hidden Mist's property: blood and the power contain therein.
"Hunter-Nin Files: Power In The Blood - Part 1"
Rebel Camp - Land of Water
The forest that the Koumorite Renegades are using as a place for their training camps is just off the path that leads from the cliffs of the Koumorite Village and the more 'modern' stone roads in the 'civilized' parts of the Land of Water. Not that there has been much time to build up such civilization only 6 years after the end of the Clan Wars, but people are trying. The additional wars since then have not helped the economic state of the country much, but the Hozuki Clan have been working on building that infrastructure all the years. They have been working so quietly and discretely that many people thought the Clan was extinct.
Now, one of the new allies of Kirigakure has renegades within its otherwise extremely loyal population who seek to destroy all that the Land of Water's citizens and the ninja of the Hidden Mist have been working and fighting for. That's not why Hunter-Nin have been dispatched though. The reason has less to do with morality and a threat to society or any of that and more to do with these renegades being labelled Missing-Nin. They have a Kekkei Genkai that 'belongs' to Kirigakure now, and even those who cannot use their inheritance of genetic ability can be captured and dissected by an enemy or simply reveal all that they know to other interested parties.
Thus a male and female Hunter-Nin have been sent out. One of the camps was located by other agents, and that is where Suzaku Yuri, using the codename of 'Mori' (meaning 'Lance'), and Kaguya Tsiro, using the codename 'Yari' (meaning 'Spear'), are presently headed. They should have both received quite thorough briefings on the situation — at least as it applies to what they are up against and what they need to do — and need no further instruction. However, the location of the camp is troubling… It is very near to the 'cursed forest' known as the 'Road of Fear'. It is not quite within the boundaries of that dreaded place, with its permanent fog and unseen horrors, but most people wouldn't even go >near< it.
That a training camp has been established within only a dozen miles of the outer reaches of the Road of Fear may mean that these renegades are willing to use proximity to such a place to conceal their presence… And if they can tolerate being near, then they may be insane enough to go a bit deeper… After all, the location of the leader of this entire Koumorite Renegade movement remains unknown.
For now, though, it's a sunny day in most other places but overcast in this area. A gloomy feeling permeates the woods. Like just being >close< to the accursed forest is enough to make the weather worsen. Mori and Yari should be closing in on a position they can watch the camp from any moment now…
Yari was excited to be on his first mission as a Hunter Nin. The boy made sure his uniform was perfect and that his mask had been shined before wearing. He did not want to give his superiors the wrong impression. He was as prepared for the mission as he possibly could be. While he truly knew little of the Koumorite Clan that these missing nin were from, the briefing seemed to help him feel at ease. There were a few mixed feelings about going near the 'Cursed Forest' but in the end the boy felt it could not be too much more dangerous than the Blood Marsh.
There was also little known about Mori, his superior. She wore a mask like him and obviously had more experience doing this. He moves behind her, following her lead for the moment. Even as the camp comes into sight, he remains still and quiet. His eyes glance between her and the base waiting for an order.
Mori is dressed in a typical manner for a female Hunter-Nin. No particularly distinguishing characteristics other than a wire spool on her belt. Even her rather 'mature' build is down-played by her attire thanks to combat jacket, baggy hakama, etc. As she kneels behind a fallen log overlooking the camp's perimeter, the kunoichi wonders inwardly how much of this is a real mission and how much is 'field training' for a rookie. Still, this isn't the first time she has had to instruct a new Hunter, so she treats it professionally. She doesn't try to make it too hard or too easy. This isn't about challenging Yari nor about protecting him. This is about getting the job done right.
Mori's right hand is held up to get attention silently. Then she holds up two fingers on that hand, and points to her left — westwards. A look in that direction would reveal one guard semi-concealed in camouflage clothing kneeling next to a leafy bush and seemingly talking out of the side of his mouth. He doesn't appear to be aware of the presence of enemies just yet. Then one finger is held up, and she points upwards and to the east, at a tallish tree with enough foliage to hide someone in the branches from directly below or nearby it, but leaving a man in a dark-green bandanna and facepaint straddling a branch visible from their position about 12 feet up.
Then Mori turns her head to look at Yari through her mask's slitted eyeholes, and waits to see if he understands and what he intends to do if so. She knows what >she'll< do, but if this new Hunter has any skills or ideas of his own he should learn first-hand whether they're good ones or not.
Yari's attention is already on Mori. He follows her hand and understands there is a second guard in the first direction Mori pointed. He then gives a nod of the head to confirm he sees the one up above in the tree. There are at least three total guards around the camp. The one guard from above seemed to have a good vantage point. He was not worried about the two that seemed to be speaking to each other. They were probably trying to pass the time of a boring shift.
Yari looks across the ground and picks up a rock. He then makes a gesture towards the underbrush. The boy was trying to create a small distraction to draw the upper guards attention.
A distraction… And one that doesn't require jutsu use. An effective application of the basics against a guard that is clearly not trained to ninja levels. From the information available, mercenaries and civilians are the ones being trained. Actual ninja presence is minimal, though some of the mercenaries may also be left-over ninja from the Clan Wars. Mori approves of this simple tactic and nods her head to show such. After the stone is thrown, the guard in the tree turns his head when the rock thumps into the bushes, rattling them. He was previously just peering around, but now he is looking quite specifically in the direction of the noise, and doing his best to get the attention of his fellow guards who are far enough away that they didn't hear the rock and aren't looking in that direction. In order to get attention, the guard would have to call out.
Waving his arms isn't doing anything and his tentative 'hey! hey!' whisper-shouts is more revealing him to any nearby trespassers than drawing looks from his bored companions a good two-hundred feet away. Really amateurish perimeter guards they're dealing with. Though that makes the Queen of Paranoia become immediately suspicious. Maybe the guards are incompetent, but what about the one running this place? A trained ninja wouldn't necessarily put just some idiot guards out here to protect the others while they're training right? Experienced mercenaries to guard the ones who still need to learn would be better.
Does that mean the Koumorite Renegade running this camp is also a fool? Or is there some other layer of defense as-yet unseen? Mori decides to find out. She is one of those who has worked most closely with the Koumorite Clan in the past. She helped earn their trust and get their Elders to agree to join Kirigakure. She knows many of their preferences and abilities as a result…
But not all. However, they like to stay above-ground, in places where they can feel safe. Darkness. Foliage. Perches that have a good view of the surroundings. So she directs her attention upwards, and then while the guard in the tree is getting up from the branch in preparation to climb down to the ground, she heads the opposite direction, leaping up into another tree. She pauses on a branch and holds out a hand in a 'wait' gesture to Yari. Then she notices it. A network of trip wires, bells, tags, and more all strewn throughout the branches amidst the upper portions of the trees.
Clever. Put a bunch of incompetents on the ground and then have real defenses above for those attempting to bypass them. Though that leaves the problem that someone could try to just kill their way through the guards and hide the bodies or something. So Yuri then starts to worry about what >other< defenses may be in place.
For now, she is up on a branch about two dozen feet away from Tsiro, facing an intricate net of traps and warning bells and similar, while the guard that was in the tree finishes climbing down to the ground. Mori can't get back down now without drawing attention to herself, so she waits and watches what the now ground-bound camouflaged sentry does…
Which appears to be approach the foliage the rock was thrown at cautiously, with some kind of long-knife in his hand. Total. Freaking. Amateur. Mori gestures for Tsiro to just ignore the guy and proceed forward. One Hunter can probably stealth by on-foot, or just leap up to join Mori and then they can find a safe place to descend from there. But what other defenses may be in place? Something on the ground too?
Yari tossed the rock as soon as he had been given approval. His eyes remain on Mori as she moves into the tree while the man looked away. He watches how she moves and her body responds to moving up the tree. This was not her first time out on a mission like this. He spots her signal to remain where he is. Instead of nod, he simply obeys the command. By now he sees the man trying to get the attention of his people. Though Yari kind of wished to kill the guard and henge into him, it was not the best for the plan and risked letting others know they were there.
It seems that Mori spotted something above, though Yari has no idea what it is. Then the guard finally gets out of the tree and approaches where the rock landed. The eyes of Yari scan the area between the guard and his tree. His body gets up from the kneeling position. He is about to move forward when he spots what appears to be a tag with a seal on it. It's mostly covered by leaves. The eyes go wide behind the mask. He's now standing up but his plan will not work. Instead of remain paused, the boy moves up the tree towards Mori.
Now he knows why the guard who was so eager to get the attention of the others did not travel towards his friends once he was on the ground. He knew the section between the guards was trapped. Now he is simply glad he had not chosen to throw the rock into the center area. He would have gathered the attention of everything in the entire area. Now he waited for Mori to make a decision.
Mori gets the message when Yari joins her in the tree. Leaves concealing seals that wouldn't be visible from above-ground. So those who see them on the ground think to leap into the trees to bypass them, only to run into the aerial defenses. Those who see the aerial defenses first head to the ground to bypass them only to run into the ground-based traps. The guards may be amateurs, but the traps aren't nor is their planning. Mori can't really explain all that in-detail, but she does point out the wire network up here where the two are now. It will take quite awhile to work their way through it without setting anything off — assuming that's even viable — and while they are not exactly in a rush, and patience and endurance are definitely excellent traits in a Hunter-Nin, it would be better not to spend hours trying to get through this stuff.
She wanted to make it to the target with as little Ninjutsu usage as possible. So she'll just have to do something a bit reckless. If the one who sent out these guards knows they're incompetent… Then it shouldn't be too much trouble to…
Mori unwinds high-tensile metal wire from a spool in one of her ninja tool pouches and then attempts to hurl it out towards the guard who is presently anxiously looking around as he makes his way back to his sentry position, having found no sign of an intruder. If successfull, the loop of wire attempts to ensnare the man's throat and then squeeze tight to cut off his hair supply, keeping him from calling out. Then, because he's further away from the two Hunter-Nin and they are above-ground, heaving on the wire should be enough to pull him off his feet, causing him to swing towards the seal mine field… Where he would be dropped right on the edge.
The seals going off are likely to result in alerting people, but they'd just find the remains of the guard, assume he stupidly wandered into the kill-zone, and not be looking while two ninja sneak into the camp.
Now in the tree, Yari is able to see the network of wires and traps. The one in charge here was no slouch. He seemed to know full well what he was doing. For a moment, it seems unlikely that it could be someone from the Koumorite Clan. They were rumored to be less knowledgeable in the arts. That either meant this person was very smart or probably had help. Despite his thoughts now, they would find the truth out sooner or later.
Yari watches as the coil grabs the man and slings his body into the mine field. There is a split moment of confusion for the boy as he ponders why Mori would do this. No matter, she knew better than he did. So the boy turns the opposite direction on the tree to be covered from the blast. Once the blast occurs, Yari prepares to move quickly. He watches Mori to see which path she choses.
Mori leaves after that, rewinding what's left of her wire and then watching as both of the bored guards leap up and begin heading towards the edge of the seal field until they see the blood remains of their comrade. While they stare in shock and try to figure out what happened, the kunoichi performs a deft leap to a branch a distance away to the west, and then swings down to land on the ground on the side of the forest the two bush-sentries were previously kneeling at, pausing only long enough to ensure Yari does the same, and then moving on her way, on the look-out for more traps but more concerned about who will come to investigate the explosions. They will be the ones who reveal the safe path.
So once there is a significant distance between the Explosive Tag mine field and the two Hunter-Nin, Mori stops and hides behind some trees, where she then explains what's going on as quietly and succinctly as possible. Intentionally masking her voice by making it sound hoarse and raspy, Mori whispers, "You saw how inexperienced those guards were. Those traps weren't made elaborate because they had to be. They were there to cover the failings of those guards. With one of them seemingly blown apart by his own stupidity, a cursory examination won't reveal we're present. But I'm not sure that is the end of the traps. Whoever comes to investigate is going to have to take a safe route. So we watch for them, and then take the same path back to the camp. Further, because it will be awhile before they return with news of what happened, the man who died is still alive as far as they know. So the two of us should use the Transformation Technique to appear as the two guards who were stationed by that shrubbery. I'll have a stand-in for the tree-based sentry in a moment."
Just then, some ninja come dashing between a pair of trees close together about fifty feet away from the position of the two Hunter-Nin. They don't look fancy, aren't wearing any Village's crest, and just seem to have basic weapons, minimal ninja gear, and lack awareness of the two Hunter-Nin. Though one of them stops to look around the area briefly before then going after the others. The camp lies beyond that pair of trees. It seems to be a straight path from there, that then diverges into a 'Y' based on how the ninja curve around that center area where the seal tags are.
Are there more traps? Maybe or maybe not. But Mori withdraws a scroll from a pouch and then unrolls it enough to expose a single seal. She activates the seal and a dead body poofs into existence on the ground. She then uses Henge no Jutsu to appear to be one of the two guards by the bush to the best of her recollection of his appearance, and hopes Yari was paying attention to such details in a similar fashion. She then extends her Henge to cover the corpse and make it appear to be a wounded tree-guy. Slipping one of the dead guy's arms over her shoulder, the 'guard' turns to Yari and looks meaningfully at him while waiting for a similar transformation to occur before heading towards the camp.
Yari follows behind Mori, mimicing her movements as best he can. He was slightly surprised to make it past the two guards without them noticing him. Stealth was not his strongest point. He even stops where she stops. As she explains the plan to him, he nods his head. It made sense to draw them out and reveal their path. It was like making the enemy do half the work instead of shouldering it all themselves.
As the other side's shinobi pass over them, Yari remains perfectly still. He had no intention of giving away his own position or that of Mori's. Luckily he had gotten a good look at the shinobi that had been hiding in the bush. The boy places his fingers together and performs the basic henge jutsu.
Nodding once in acknowledgement with a stranger's face instead of her own (though that was covered by a physical mask before now instead of an illusory one), Mori then does her best to haul the dead man along the 'leg' of the 'Y-path'. The straight line from the Seal mine field towards the pair of trees is where those ninja travelled along… But… There are times when being a paranoid schitzophrenic is helpful and there are many more times it isn't. This Hunter-Nin may have learned how to use her paranoia in her work, to control her outwards expressions of her insanity, and so on, but she can't stop the worries from running around in her head. The fears. The idea that >everyone< is out to 'get' her. All of it combines to make her suddently start questioning the legitimacy of this path.
Those traps before were set up very cleverly by an experienced ninja. Would they really only have that one defense for that one direction? The fact the ninja passed between these two trees may indicate going around them is dangerous… But it doesn't mean that the path between them is >safe< either, does it?
She is very likely overthinking things. But that is her nature as a psychopath. Insanity is not something she can turn off and on like a switch. So she turns on the new Hunter-Nin who is along on this mission and says in the voice that belongs to the man whose appearance she has stolen, "You go through first. Your mobility should be less limited due to not having to carry this guy. Remember to act like a normal, untrained individual… But if you detect danger, don't be afraid to use what you know to deal with it."
Then she goes silent. The real reason she is sending Yari first? Incase the path isn't safe, he'll set off the traps first. And if he isn't good enough to get out of the way, then he clearly wasn't good enough to be a Hunter-nin either.
The reasoning of the insane isn't reasonable. However, various tents and temporary structures are visible starting just a few feet beyond that pair of trees. Once they're in they can get the target and get out. They've come this far. Too late to turn back now, right?
Yari followed behind Mori until she came to a stop before passing through the trees. He is a bit surprised when she decides to send him first. The entire area had been trapped and now she is sending him ahead. This was no doubt a test and Yari knew it. That or she was sending him to his death to try and protect herself. This was not a surprise nor something that upset him. They were both shinobi from Kirigakure. The weak did not survive the blood lust.
As Yari moves forward his eyes spot something sticking out from the other side of the tree. It was a tag of some sort but not one that he could see. His eyes then look towards the other side. He was sure there was one there as well. It may have been his mind playing tricks on him, but there was something there. The young Hunter Nin looks upwards but opts not to go that route. There would likely be some sort of trap there. One he might not have spotted before running into. Quietly Yari turns back towards Mori and holds up a finger for her to wait. They were working on a time frame here, so his decision had to be quick.
Now facing the trapped trees, Yari Yari places his left hand to the backside of the tree. He then produces a long piece of bone from his right hand. The edge of it is extremely thin. Now making sure that his hand does not cross the tag, he uses the bone to pry the tag off the tree and then place it off to the side. He then repeats the process on the other tree and places it out of their path before crossing between the trees.
Well, that worked out nicely. Yuri/Mori doesn't doubt that this young Hunter understands her sending him forward more than would be noticeable from casual observation. They are ninja of the Hidden Mist. Sacrifice is necessary, but so is self-preservation. Many see Kirigakrue as a Village of murderous psychopaths. While the place has its fair share of murderers and crazies, as Yuri herself proves, the mentality that actually is most prevalent is…
Survival. To be able to do what is needed to survive can also mean more than just one's own immediate existence. Preserving one's life is a priority, of course, but ensuring one's Village continues to survive to provide the long-term benefits is likewise important. And sometimes, one has to die to make sure that Village continues on — but generally it is preferred to avoid doing dumb things like just throwing oneself into a suicide mission for no reason other than 'honor' or 'good will'.
That is shown as Tsiro/Yari does as instructed but does not do so recklessly. He does what is needed to survive and ensure this two-person team survives, and that does not require that he die. But now forward motion is required. Mori nods in understanding with her borrowed face and then proceeds between the trees after the other Hunter does. She pauses long enough to place her own tags on the pair of trees to replace the ones taken off. They look the same but they are actually completely different. If they just left the tags missing someone would notice after all.
Some guards notice the trio quickly after they enter the camp, the light a bit brighter in this area than in the forest, thanks to gas torches and similar. The men seem rather ill-at-ease in this forest. This may not have been a wise place to train new ninja after all. "Oi! Miroku! Ebi!" one of the men calls out as he runs over. "What happened to Shuu!?" Not knowing which of the two of them is Miroki and which is Ebi, Mori just assumes the appearance of the henged corpse is that of 'Shuu' and answers, "This guy accidentally set off those exploding tags! Where's the doctor!?"
The man sighs and rubs his forehead as he mutters, "Clumsy idiot." Then louder he says, "Over to the north-west, same as always!" Mori nods and smiles embarassedly as she says, "Sorry, that explosion kind of rattled me." "Yeah, well, there's going to be a lot more of them in this line of work. Better get used to them."
Mori then turns to Yari, assuming he's doing his own bit of acting — though hopefully not too much. The more they interact with people who >know< those whose faces they're wearing, the higher the chances of slipping up and saying or doing something the real ones wouldn't have. "You should report to the boss about this," she offers with her borrowed voice, and then pauses to go, "Err… Where was the command tent again?"
The guard groans and rolls his eyes. "You forgot that too!? You're not cut out for fighting alongside ninja, Miroku!" Mori just nods and lets her false face sag a bit as she mutters, "Hai…" Then the man points out the command tent, near the center of the camp. That's where 'Ebi' (aka Tsiro aka Yari) should go. The fact the guard didn't say anything about 'the boss' not being there right now means he probably >is< there.
Mori, meanwhile, takes her ashen-faced buddy 'Shuu' towards the medic tent… To drop him off and make sure there's a surprise ready incase they need to leave suddenly.
Though Yari had originally planned to replace the old tags, he does not protest when Mori places her own. It was a better idea to use her own. At least that way he would not set off the tags while trying to place them. He also figured if they were different from the original there might be the possibility that those shinobi returning could possibly set the tag off. While it was not part of the mission, it would be one less group they had to face if this thing went south.
The boy is more than glad to have passed this portion of his test. More than that though, he is proud to be learning things that normally he would not had. Now that they were moving into the camp, they faced a whole new test. Yari hears the names shouted. It was easy to put together that 'Shuu' was the dying man, unless that was code for something. There was doubt that these people would be that paranoid with all those traps set up. The issue here was that they had not been able to observe their assumed identities before using them.
Yari simply lets Mori take the lead in the conversation. He seems surprised when Mori asks where the doctor is. Then again he was the conversation seems to go okay and she covers using the explosion as an excuse. Meanwhile Yari raises a hand to his head as if he had been rattled a bit by the explosion. He blinks his eyes a few times as Mori ask where the command tent is.
Now that it has been decided who is who by Mori being called Miroku, Yari now knows he is Ebi. Unless that is a trap too. Either way he is on his way to the command tent. Mori is on the way to the medical tent. He pondered just how well their acting was. If things were going well, they had plenty of time to do the mission. If not, speed would be the only way to progress forward.
However, after the two have parted ways, the man they spoke to is joined by another. The second man whispers to the first, "Wasn't Miroku acting a bit weird?" The first is scowling and says, "Yeah, he was way too apologetic and scatter-brained… Something's up. I'm going to go find the team that went out to check on that disturbance. You go tell the captain of the guard."