Date: February 5, 2016
A rescue mission to some ruins previously infested with giant snake-monsters results in a disturbing encounter.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Sands Consume You Pt. 2"
Open Desert - Northern Desert (Land of Wind)
A few weeks back, Waffuru, Hiroto, and Akina went out to some ruins for a mission Waffuru hired Sunagakure ninja to protect her on. She was hoping to get information on any ancient cultures that once existed in the Land of Wind, or any awesome Seal Techniques that were just lying around. In the process, a bandit camp to the north was completely destroyed by giant snake-like monsters. It happened in seconds. The creatures tore pack horses in half like they were made of tissue paper. While scavenging insects and animals have likely since dealt with any remains that the sands didn't bury, that was definitely not a safe place to be.
And now some rich foreigners are on a 'safari vacation' to look at various ruins. They wanted to hire Sunagakure ninja to protect them… And expected the ninja to come to them, rather than going to Sunagakure first and getting said protection. Well, the best way to protect them right now would be to get them OUT of there, not to simply guard them. So any reasonable means necessary to protect the safari troupe and get them somewhere safe are viable to employ.
Though of course, common sense must also rule. They don't want to alienate or leave a bad impression these people. They're ignorant and perhaps foolish, but they are not enemies, and they are paying customers. Action that would endanger them or drive them away should be avoided.
The primary objective, however, is just to get these people out of there.
It's a bit of a run from the Hidden Sand out into the desert. So there's time to talk if desired (though running across sand while talking isn't the safest of things, they're all ninja here. Even Waffuru! …Kind of! She is probably having a harder time keeping up due to being lame). The sun is descending towards the horizon. That may be resulting in the desert cooling, but it's also going to limit their visibility significantly.
Dressed in traveling attire, covered from head to toe and cloaked, Shiin would be traveling with the group this time. He prepared for the chill of night, incase they were not able to return before the next day, and he also prefered to be rather anonymous in dress. He hadn't said much upon being selected for the mission. He lsitened to the briefing, understood the situation, and moved forward when it was time to move out. He did realize the folly of the adventuring couple and their… eccentric behavior, but there was no helping it. Their job was to ensure that they survived their task… not to question their methods. He would take note of the others that were part of the mission as well, but saved getting to know them mostly for their performance in the mission itself.
Hiroto had beenon the first mission so was quickly assigned to this as well. Of course now he was a Chuunin as well, and that probably meant he was considered in charge. In his mind though they each had something to offer, and that meant he needed to listen to their ideas as well. Tenshi was resting on his head and get in a look of the area for the time being without having to worry about flying in the right direction since they were all heading to the same place and knew where to go. "Alright. For now everyone just keep a lookout of the area. Keep your senses on point. Until we know the exact conditions we can't make any for sure plans, but I am sure we can all think quickly enough on our feet if we need to."
Tourists. They were a great source of income for the village, but in his experience they were dumb as rocks when it came to their own safety. Selected for this mission, perhaps for his expert desert survival skills, is Hayato Malik. Luckily, he had been able to coax his feathered partner from the aviary and separate him from his new mate long enough to do this thing. Malik is dressed as he always is, covered from head to toe, with his hood up, goggles on, and mask covering his lower face. His new blade-bow is folded up and sitting in the small of his back and as he runs along with the group, he listens to Hiroto as he apparently their team leader for this. "Hai, bro. For us, this is just like going home. No worries, our eyes in the sky will keep us appraised of anything we need to know about." Sinbad was already airborne, having rode on Malik's shoulder for most of the trip, but after hearing him speak, the bird took off so he could start doing his part of the job. "I just hope these people are willing to listen to us."
The smooth, white mask revealed nothing underneath as Akina kept pace with the others, her eyes feeling more relief as the sun begins to disappear beneath the horizon. Without the glare of sunlight distracting her sensitive eyes, she'll be able to concentrate on the task at hand. "That level of expectation might be unrealistic." she murmurs to Malik in reply, though one never knows. "In either case, we're babysitting. Keeping that in mind might help." Emphasis on the word 'might'.
Running along is tiring, but Uzumaki Waffuru is from a Clan known for their longevity and strong life force. Her stamina has not flagged at all during this run, regardless of her speed likely being less than the others. But as they get closer to their destination, she starts to pour on the effort a bit more, at least to keep even with them. But she knows she's the weakest one here, so she doesn't try to get in the way or anything.
"We're closing in on the location… When we were last here, there was a bandit camp a few miles north of the ruins. Akina-san and Hiroto-san were able to detect something was wrong in advance. I'd like to recommend that if we start hearing or feeling tremors that grabbing everyone we can and running be considered an option. I don't doubt you guys are strong and could fight… But fighting subterranean snake-things with civilians in the area might be too dangerous." she suggests.
A line of trade wagons, camels, and rather luxurious-looking tents and transports are visible from where they are, on the horizon. They should be there shortly. Already, movement might be ascertained as non-shinobi guards become aware of the people approaching and move into defensive positions.
The red-head just stays with the ninja and lets them decide on course of action.
Eyeing the size and scope of the… vacation goers… Shiin began to wonder how they hadn't been eatten already by these snake worm creatures. Before they closed all the way to the location, Shiin would agree with Akina. "I agree. Consider them liabilities to survival and assets to the mission and things should be as smooth as they are going to be. " With these creatures being terrestrial, and with them being on guard duty, many of Shiin's talents were not going to be entirely useful. However, he would make due. "I don't suppose we have any way of keeping our attention on the ground? A bird's eye view might be too late depending on how fast these things strike." Regardless of the answer… they would be arriving in a moment, and their contrators may or may not be… accomodating.
Hiroto looks at each of them and nods. "Yeah. I am sure they would agree when trouble strikes, but we want them out before then. Sadly I am not one for being diplomatic, and would much more quickly force them out. But yeah. Don't want them to be pushed away from Suna's services, so any ideas for just convincing them to leave?" He looked onwards at the guards and called Tenshi to him before wrapping his head band around the bird in a way to not restrict its flight before sending Tenshi over. THat way they could tell before they got their that they were friendly. Then he would head on upwards. Once there he would speak some. "Could everyone that is exploring these ruins or guarding anything gather? I want to have a head count of everyone here." He frowned and looked to the others to pitch in.
Malik hmms as he thinks about it while glancing around at the group. "Why don't we go with the truth? We tell them that there have been bandits spotted in this area, and that they could come back at any moment. We tell them that it would be safer if they take what they have and go. And if they're still not convinced…I can hang back from the group and put a few choice arrows into the ground nearby. That way it gives your story some credibilty." He reaches out and taps Hiroto on the chest gently. "But it's your call, boss. It might make a difference."
"So long as our tourists accept that we will go to great lengths to make sure that they say safe." Akina murmurs lightly from beneath her smooth, bare mask. "That's all I'm really concerned about. I don't need a person struggling to get away when I'm trying to keep them alive." From the tone of her voice, it might seem that she's already anticipating a resistance. And one might be correct. The kunoichi falls silent and their pace slows as they approach. The guards, shinobi or not, are watched carefully. "Hm."
As the ninjas charge forth, the non-shinobi guards that were assembling to defend the caravan seem to be… Rushing to meet them? …Wait, these guards are moving oddly. Somewhat jerkily, uncoordinated. Their attire is also strange. Tattered, torn, stained. As they get closer and closer, the blank, expressionless faces they have indicate no sign of thinking people. Something is defintely wrong. Have they been drugged? Are they under the influence of Genjutsu? They're armed with simple weapons, and bear wounds all over already. Some of them quite serious. And as they continue to charge the ninja, it seems that whatever is motivating them, it seems to hold hostile intent!
Waffuru frowns and falls back, allowing those more qualified to go before her. But she's inspecting the people approaching her. Some of them look like caravan guards, but… There's something off beyond the obvious.
It seems that they were going to be even more of a liability than Shiin anticipated. He would stop and cross his arms under his short cloak as he looked at the charging… frienemies. "Do we kill them, or knock them out?" He would ask… only because it wasn't his decision to make. As far as he was concerned, slipping away, findign the targets, and if they were compromised, elminating them was a far better option than trying to detain all of these people… but it may just come down to up bringing. In either case, he was as ready as he was going to be as he observed this situation unfolding. "Akina… when you are right…" he would simply shake his head at this. If they had to knock them out though, he was trying to figure out how best to go about that. Perhaps his skill set needed some… expanding for situatons like these.
Hiroto suddenly stops and Tenshi flies back to him. "We don't kill them. We capture them. They are as far as we know being controlled by someone else, and for us to kill people who are not in control of their actions would put a bad name on Sunagakure. Even if they didn't know we killed them we still were unable to protect them." He looked at Malik. "Netted arrow? Probably best bet right now don't you think?" He looks to the others. "Do you have any way to trap enemies?" He asked before turning back to the others and pulled an arrow of his own out. He fired it and it spread apart showing three weights that hopefully wrapped around one of the targets and stopped him in his tracks.
Malik looks over at Hiroto and nods once. "Exactly what I was thinking, bro." He pauses. "But we should also consider the possibility that they're not human anymore. I know you can see them as clearly as I can. Some of them have mortal wounds and yet they're still walking around as if they aren't harmed at all. I know you don't like killing.." Which was just downright weird for a future assassin. "…but it may be the best thing for them. To lay them to rest." He comments as he removes the bow from his back, triggering the mechanism that causes it to unfold into it's full shape. Those in attendance, might take note that the ends of the bow has razor sharp blades on them. He withdraws an arrow from the quiver on his back and readies it. "Whenever you give the word, man." Once they get close enough, he rapid fires two arrows. Just before they would hit their targets, a large net would pop out with an attempt to ensnare them.
Akina couldn't help but blink with some surprise as she watches the guards, or what could have been thought to be the guards at one time. "Puppets…" she murmurs, barely loud enough to be heard. The thought instantly struck her and in that moment the word escapes her lips. The first thought she had, puppets. The kunoichi narrows her eyes and quickly glances around, keeping on the defensive and the guards within view as she searches for what might be a puppetmaster. If what she suspects is correct at least.
The nets seem to be effective. If there's a Puppeteer controlling them, they aren't doing a very good job of making their improvised puppets dodge. The guardsmen become entangled in the restraints, falling or rolling to the ground, and then making uncoordinated attempts to continue to advance on the ninja anyway, even crawling along with their faces in the sand. They definitely seem to be acting without their own will! Akina's idea may have some merit! But would a Puppeteer really be this incompetent? Sure there's a lot of bodies being controlled at once about eight of these men. But anyone who could control eight bodies would know how to use them better, right?
One of the men gets close enough (unless avoided) to attempt to swing at Shiin with his blade, his jaw slack, a mix of saliva and blood dribbling from his mouth. His eyes are unseeing. He continues to mindlessly pursue Shiin if avoided, though at this point it seems only his persistence is remarkable. He lacks the coordination of even a normal living human being, let alone a puppet or ninja.
Likewise the other four men try to get close enough to attack as well. At least two of the men seem to smell quite bad and be surrounded by insects. Malik's own guess might also have some merit here…
Though those two are the ones that seem even more 'off' to Waffuru as she hangs back as much as possible. Beyond the fact they may well be dead and being controlled… What is it about them that is so different from the others? It's something… Something she can't put her finger on.
As the remaining guards attack Hiroto, Shiin, Akina, and Malik if they can get close enough to swing at them with weapons or fists, they take no defensive action. The only coordination they display is in their seemingly unified goal of killing the rescuers.
At least three of them are hopelessly entangled in their nets and aren't going anywhere or hurting anyone any time soon.
If there's a Puppet Master around here, then they're doing a very good job of concealing themselves.
After confirming what his orders were, Shiin decided to… well not disobey… but take in the situation more than cease it. He looked at the different conditions of the seemingly and possibly very likely dead people animated and territorial or at least, mindlessly trying to… infect… Shiin would wonder if this had something to do with another matter altogether… or perhaps the same. But what he was not able to understand was the inse…! Shiin had taken too much time conisdering as the slack jawed, bloody saliva'd creton would take his shot at the young man. Shiin would simply… slip in to the sands below his own feet. But only momentarily. He wanted to test something, well, a few things, but one at a time.
Re-emerging behind the target, Shiin uncrossed his arms as his pincered gauntlets had been shifted on to his hands and he would attack various nerve clusters and muscles groups with his pincers, attempting to lock up the targets ability to move what so ever. This would tell him two things. If the target was still able to move unhindered, then their body was not under their own power. If however the target was having trouble moving, but other wise seemed uneffected, then it was a host to something. Regardless of the results, Shiin would warn, "Do not get too close, and to not make contact as much as you can help. I do not know what this is, but it spread some how to all of them." Shiin would actually take a quick glance around to see if anything was actually just…regular dead around here.
Hiroto frowned now and looked to Malik. "I don't mind killing. And it seems they are dead anyways. I just wanted to be sure. Disable them anyway you can." He looked at them and shook his head before pulling out arrows that seemed slim, but the arrow heads were spiked all around. His aim being to rip into the muscle tendons and prevent them from moving as much as he could. Tenshi was looking around while in the air to see if he sees anyone else or if he could see dead people lying in the sand. "Malik. You have any arrows that cause any flashes of light or something similiar? Would be interesting to see if those effected these people." Then one more arrow would be pulled out that seemed to be coated in something. He fired that as well hoping to see if the dead guards were effected by poison in any form as well.
Malik backs away as they come for him. He's a ranged fighter, though he can get down and dirty if he needed to. He nods to Hiroto. "Flashbang arrows, coming right up. Everyone hide your eyes." Most of them were wearing masks anyway so they should be relatively safe. He withdraws an arrow and fires it between two of the walking dead. There would be a bright flash of light and a loud sound accompanying it. He scrambles back even further. "Since we know they aren't alive, I'd suggest head shots." He pauses. "Just in case they're actually zombies."
"If they're puppets, I don't see a puppeteer." Akina quickly reports, takin several jumps back to make sure she stays out of range of the guards. For some reason she still had this feeling in the pit of her stomach that it could be a puppeteer. Or maybe several. Her dusky eyes blink again with another thought and Malik warns of the flashbang, Akina quickly lifts a arm to cover her eyes. "Hey guys? Can anyone check to see if this is a genjutsu?" she gives a quick glance behind them, making sure that Waffuru was still out of range of danger and safe."
Shiin's stab has an unexpected effect. The man doesn't appear to experience in loss of motion or any sensation of pain, but his injuries were more severe than was apparent… Because… After being struck… His head falls off. Did Shiin hit him that hard!?
The man lurches forward, sword blade planted in the sand, and remains there for a few seconds, motionless. Then suddenly the headless body spins around and starts slashing wildly at Shiin and all around him. Though without a head, it seems he can't see where Shiin is, he still is getting remarkably close any time Shiin passes near the fallen head's line of sight.
It's hard to tell from here if there's any non-moving corpses back at the camp, but there's a lack of motion or activity for such a lengthy procession and large encampment.
As Hiroto shoots arrows into the limbs and joints of the dead men to immobilize them, his falcon observes that there's a number of blood trails all leading towards what seems to be some kind of sink hole. And a body vanishing into it, tugged in by an unseen figure, even as Tenshi watches.
Waffuru heeds the warning from Malik and closes her eyes as she turns away. But she wasn't expecting a loud noise to accompany it! "AAAAHH! WHAT THE HECK!? You should have warned me about the sound too, baka!" she yells as she claps her hands over her ears. The flash of light seems to be preventing the creatures from seeing them, but not to be impairing them otherwise. Likewise, the poison doesn't seem to be circulating, though it may still be doing damage to the tissue if it's that kind of toxin.
One of the dead men that was trapped in a net has managed to, through the determination of a moving corpse, wriggle all the way over to the Uzumaki's position. It latches onto her leg just barely with the tips of its fingers, and she screams in surprise and fear in a very girly manner. "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
She then proceeds to kick and stomp on the moving corpse as much as possible while yelling insults at it.
Something Akina might notice, is that while there are not Puppeteers in sight, there do appear to be two more figures approaching. Moving from covered wagon to covered wagon. An older man and woman in white safari gear are crouching and hiding, over and over, tryng to remain out of sight of something or someone… But gradually working their way closer to the ninja. It looks like the clients are alive at least!
Turning his form away from where the arrow was fired, the explosive sound and light would cause him to silhouette before the still living, obvious corpse of a man. That's all he really needed to know. Shiin would adjust his gauntlet a bit, a mechanism cocking as he would scuttle to the side of the random slashes, moving to behind where the head had fallen and then launching his pincer down at the head with his now cabled pincher, crushing it between the metallic claws as he observed the body in a cool manner. Since it appeared at least the visual ability of the head determined any possibility of accuracy, perhaps the loss of brain may end it as Malik suggested.
"This is a waste of time. We need to find the clients and leave or find the clients and kill all of these…creatures. They are not going to recover from this." Shiin would say without question in his voice. "What ever the source is, if your birds haven't found it, we are unlikely to do so too without clearing out this entire area and searching for clue and we will be lucky if the desert sands don't erase them before we get a chance." Extracting his pincer viciously from the gore, it retracted in to his gauntlet, and he would carefully pull the tainted flesh from it in order to put it in to a vial and tuck it away for later. He then slashes his pincer rig off to the side, attempting to clear it of as much blood as possible as he awaited both orders and a reaction or lack there of from the headless body.
Tenshi starts making a sound and Hiroto looks up. Hiroto hears what Tenshi says because bird language and frowns. "Think we may have found something… A body was just pulled into a sink hold below where Tenshi is. But right now that isn't our worries. Like SHiin says we need to find our clients and get out of here. Kill any of them that you can and if you see the people get them to safety. Malik… Could you stay close to Waffuru. You don't have to move much, and I would rather not give anyone the chance to actually snack on her." He frowned and started moving to look for the people and if Akina pointed them out he would head towards them to make sure they were safe. But carefully. He had arrows ready in case he needed to shoot anything close to him, but otherwise fired nothing. He figured Shiin and Malik could kill or disable them with hopefully a lot of ease.
Malik offers Hiroto a nod. "No worries, bro. I'll look after her." He moves to stand in front of her, but he asides to her. "Were you not listening? I said flash..bang. As in there would be a flash and then a bang." With his head turning to look at her, he fires off two arrows in quick succession, aiming for the heads of two of the zombie guys. "It's okay. I forgive you…maybe after this we can have a drink or something." Turning to face the front again, he raises a fist in the air as Sinbad swoops down.
Her keen eyes spot movement. A pair crouching behind the wagons as they try to make their way closer to the shinobi. From behind her smooth mask Akina narrows her eyes at the man and woman, and without prior warning she dashes straight for them. If she's quick enough, she attempts to grab at each of their collars to hold them in place. "You better be the clients that had hired us. Otherwise I would be rather upset…" she murmurs. The whole situation has left her less than amused after all. "What is going on here?"
"Flash bang!? I've never heard of such a thing!" Waffuru huffs as she backs up out of range of the zombie who is undeterred by kicks or stomps. Continuing to put her foot close enough to him to attack is probably not a good idea. "…But I do like drinks. Hmph! I-it's not like I need you to buy them for me or anything!" the red-head blusters with reddened cheeks as she gets out of the way of any further zombie attacks. The arrows to the heads of the presently-blinded dead men still don't seem to be getting the desired effect, but it at least seems their brain's ability to coordinate their vision has been damaged by the impalement of their skulls, as they become even less coordinated and even less accurate. Slower, stumbling, falling and trying to get up unsuccessfully.
Given one of them is still walking around without its head attached, but there is still some kind of connection between the head and body, there may very well be a source of control of some kind within the brains.
The dead men seem to either be rendered unable to fight effectively anymore or to be immobilized. The ones with arrows throught their limbs and joints can't move well enough to pursue the ninja, the one with its head destroyed seems to just be standing around now, weapon still ready but no longer taking action… But if it were bumped or otherwise disturbed, there's no telling if it would start slashing again or not. In all cases, the ninja have superior agility, strength, intelligence, and far more options than the walking corpses. But it's easy to see how plain civilians could have fallen to them.
As Akina seizes the man who appears to be in his 50s or 60s, with a bushy white moustache curled at the tips, and eyeglasses, and the tight-featured, squinting woman with shoulder-length white hair that curves upwards at the tips, they yell in surprise! Akina was far too fast for them, and they were focused on Hiroto as he approached, trying to wave to him without drawing attention.
"I say! If you are ninja of the Hidden Sand, we are most certainly your clients! We thought for certain we had been abandoned! Do unhand me now!" the old man demands in an unusual accent.
The woman says, "We came here on vacation! A strange hole opened up in the terrain during the night, and all day we've been hiding as what seem to be mad men terrorized our camp! We barely managed to get away with our lives! Ah, Agatha Hegsworth, by the by."
Agatha's husband says, "Charles Hegsworth. Charmed, I'm sure. The equipment here is replaceable, but there were some important relics we turned up, including a tablet with some sort of ancient writing on it. I'd like to retrieve it if possible, after these fiends have been dealt with."
Agatha says, "Charles, we don't have time! This place is dangerous!"
"Poppycock!" is Charles's reply.
Waffuru, meanwhile, as the remaining dead people are disabled finally pieces together what was bugging her. Two of these people are dressed differently from the others. More like bandits than guards. And they appear to be… Much older corpses than the caravan guards. Could they be slain bandits from the camp when Hiroto, Akina, and Waffuru were here weeks ago…!?
She can hear Agatha saying, "We had over forty people here, and we are the only ones left! This is well beyond the scope of acceptable risks! We are on VACATION."
Charles's reply of, "POPPYCOCK, I SAY! We are on an ADVENTURE!" is also quite audible.
At least they're still alive…?
It seemed brain damage did… damage… but it didn't kill out right. Shiin made sure Waffuru was alright, and it seemed that Malik was guarding her now, so… it was time to confirm something else. Shiin would ignroe the zombie people, moving well out of their way, towards one of the ones that had insects coming from it. He recalled that Akina had been studying various animal life, and he himself had an interest in entomology, but if this was not some form of puppetery, nor was it entirely based on their brain activity or even connectivity… he was not sure but he wanted to gather what he could of this.
Here were the facts as he knew it: Near this sight, a bandit camp was wiped off the map by some giant subterranian snake worm hybrid creatures. He was nto sure if they were merely mauled and eatten or if something else occured. Soon after, apparently there is this… zombie outbreak at a location that they were asked to help merely investigate by the clients. This means ti happened very recently and spread this far already. If this was not linked some how… it would be a bizarre miracle.
Thus… Shiin would try to collect a sample of anything that he could, without risking his own life. While doing so, he would notice AKina was with some others… perhaps the clients? Good! They would be a good source of information for resolving this. "Akina! If that's them… it's time to go!" he would call out to her, now taking a defensive position in her area to cover their escape.
Hiroto followed Akina to the spot, and sighed a bit. "Good job spotting them Akina. I guess you can lead them away." He frowned before looking back at the bodies. "Oh and Akina…Do you think that worm could of been some sort of parasite? Just big..Or well snake, but could it be a parasite of sorts? Maybe it caused this considering the sink hole that had a body dragged into it over there." He looked over and had an arrow ready. "Malik! You and Waffuru can already start slowly moving away and making sure nothing is coming for you. If this thing…is nearby… Just be careful and watch the sand." He frowned and moved to the clients and hopefully Akina had them moving already so he could follow them. Tenshi would head over to where Shiin was and seemingly tries to help him investigate by watching the bodies and what Shiin does with them.
Malik continues to chat with Waffuru while putting arrows into anything that gets close enough to be labeled a threat. "I wasn't saying that you weren't capable of paying for your own drink. However, since I invited you, it's only fair that I pay for them…this time." As Hiroto's words reach him, he gives him a thumbs up, letting him know that he heard. "Alright, Waffuru. Let's start leaving…slowly. Apparently, there's something underground and we don't want to worm it off. So let's go slow and quiet, alright? Just stay close to me. No sudden moves until we get out of the area."
His sudden yelp makes Akina blink at him behind her mask, though her sharp eyes remain on him for a longer moment still. "Abandoned, no. We never would." she reassures him. Somehow though she seems doubtful. Are they really who they say they are? What if they are behind the lifeless bodies and leading them to the village would—Akina quickly shakes her head to herself. Before she qets carried away by the paranoia. "A pleasure to meet both of you." she murmurs. "Now if you excuse me, we should get you back to the village where it's safer." Of course she makes a mental note to come back when their customers' lives weren't at risk. Whatever this was about, she was determined to get to the bottom of this. Akina lets go of Agatha since she seems to be the reasonable one, but she shifts her grip on Charles to hold him by the shoulder instead, more or less starting to guide him away.