Date: March 16, 2013
A rash of sinkholes swallowing storehouses prompts an investigation by Konoha nin.
Land of Fire
Seems like there's always some weird trouble cropping up in a world with ninja. It's a good thing it takes years of blood and sweat to develop ninjutsu skills, and the number of people who get a chance to learn is limited, but even then, there's going to be a few bad apples showing up. One of the most recent incidents involves a small town in the Land of Fire countryside. Sinkholes have been swallowing up buildings around the burg. One sinkhole would be a small but natural disaster, two in the same month would be an indication that the terrain is dangerously unstable, but this town has faced four in a single week! Clearly something is going on here, and thus ninja from Konohagakure have been called in to investigate.
Noab arrives with a couple of other ninja in response to the request. After meeting with the town council and getting filled in on the details, they're led to the most recent sinkhole. "Luckily nobody's been hurt so far," says the town elder. "All of the holes opened up at night, and swallowed storehouses with nobody in them. We've lost quite a lot of valuables, though." Noab peers over the edge. "Valuables are probably what's being targeted, then," he mutters. Noab looks to his subordinates. "Earth manipulation is my specialty, so I'm sure I could handle investigating one of these holes on my own. How about you two? Think you could dig into another hole, or would you be more use sticking with me?"
Rin casually walks over to the edge of the sinkhole and looks down into it, standing on the very edge of it, her toes practically over the edge as if there was no danger at all. "Earth Manipulation? I don't know how else you'd really make things like these. They probably have some skill to be able to move soo much at one time." She then turns to Noab and shrugs. "It's up to you. If you think someone is using these things to come and go, I can get us down in there without any problem at all. Just let me know." She then turns back towards the sinkhole and kicks a bit of debris from the edge into it see if she can hear anything.
Hideaki ponders the question, looking over at Rin as if for her thoughts. He listens to her carefully, nodding at her thoughts. So far on the mission he has been quiet, only speaking when asked for his input. After a moment, he tilts his head and looks over at the mission leader. "We could indeed look at this or another hole, and perhaps discover something there. I, however, am somewhat curious to see what storehouses you have left?" He directs his attention to the village elder. "My instinct is only the most skilled could trigger such a thing without preparation beforehand. Correct me on that if I am wrong, Akimichi-sama. Perhaps we may find evidence of tampering nearby another storehouse."
Noab nods. "Affirmative. Moving that amount of earth, particularly from underneath such a large target, would require quite a lot of chakra and skill to do all at once. At my own best, I could sink a building of this size a meter or so using Swamp of the Underworld, and even then the earth wouldn't be gone, just soft enough to sink into. This required either an incredible talent in earth manipulation, or quite a bit of preparation time. Considering nobody's seen any suspicious activity, said preparation most likely took place underground." A faint clattering comes up from the hole as the debris Rin kicked in hits bottom. "…Even that must've taken a lot of effort, though. A warehouse full of goods is a fat prize, but they went to a lot of trouble to claim it, especially considering a lot of the goods must've been damaged, and the question remains how they'll carry their ill-gotten gains away." :P
Noab starts walking down the steep slope of the hole. "That's enough speculating about what's going on, though. We're only going to find out for sure by looking. Let's get a move on."
"Ah, yes. I suppose if all the preparation is being done underground, then inspecting a remaining storehouse would not necessarily give me obvious clues," Hideaki nods. "Very well. I shall inspect a different sinkhole, as you first suggested. But I shall return to here if I cannot find anything." He then moves away at a decent clip, trying not to waste any time before arriving at one of the other sinkholes. Fortunately, they are not difficult to find, and soon Hideaki stands at the edge of a second sinkhole. He starts to carefully traverse down into the hole, keeping an eye on the edges in the hopes of finding an entrance to an underground tunnel of some sort.
The team goes their separate ways, each investigating a different facet of this mystery. As they make their way down the holes, Noab and Hideaki both observe something interesting. The holes narrow into a very specific width, then continue on from there as circular cylinders. Furthermore, there are a pattern of grooves in the walls, spiralling downward. It was a given from the start that this was an artificial incident, but whoever is behind it did a very particular job for some reason. c.c That reason becomes apparent when the bottom is reached, and the storehouses are found — intact! They're in very poor shape of course, with their roofs buckled and their walls indented, but their overall structure is still holding. The grooves in the wall must have allowed the buildings to slide gradually down the tunnel rather than collapsing inward.
Noab finds an opening in his building and drops a glowstick into it. Crates lie around in a jumbled mess, many of them smashed open with their contents strewn around. Said contents seem to be various foodstuffs — fruit, flour, anything that can be expected to stay good a reasonable amount of time. Which is odd, Noab thinks — food isn't that valuable unless it's scarce, so why target this storehouse? e.U He drops in and continues to explore.
Meanwhile, Hideaki's in a similar situation, except his warehouse seems to hold stuff that makes more sense to steal. Jewelry, books, clothing, toys — this must've been the town's equivalent of a department store. Grabbing a sackful of the merchandise wouldn't make you rich, but if you had the time and safety to clean out the entire place, you could make quite a pretty penny. And down in the darkness of the building, there seems to be some clinking and muttering going on. "Mmm, yesh, very nishe, shilver platesh. Like the engraving on the edgesh, maybe I'll keep theshe for myshelf…"
Hideaki attempts to quietly open one of the doors and slip inside. He starts to produce a glowstick, but hesitates at the sound of the voice. Instead, he opens the door wider to let some light from the surface through, and allows his eyes to adjust. He takes out a glowstick but does not yet allow it to light, instead moving carefully by limited vision and cautious touch toward the sound of the voice, hoping to be near the speaker and still hidden before he gives himself away by adding light to the area.
Hideaki attempts to quietly open one of the doors and slips inside. He produces a glowstick, but hesitates at the sound of the voice. Instead of relying on his sight, he uses careful movements of his arms and legs to feel out the surrounding area, moving in the darkness as quitely as he is able and trying not to disturb any objects he brushes against. It is slow work, but less visually obvious than the light would be. He hopes to move as close as possible to the unknown figure before giving away his position.
- Poster's note: the usage of Rin's chakra to levitate in the following pose was decided by staff to be outside of her bloodline limit's capabilities. It has little bearing on the current scene, however, as she could have just used tree walking to descend.
Rin had absolutely no luck on the surface. Without a doubt, they had done all their work below ground, and as such, she had really no choice but to join up with her comrades. However, since she only knew where Noab had gone, her choices were reduced. As she steps up to the edge of the sinkhole and looks down, she ponders for a moment before holding a hand out and concentrating her chakra before jumping over the edge, bringing her chakra underneath and slowing her descent when she reaches the bottom, stepping off the disc and onto the roof of the storehouse. There was no sign of Noab on top, but light was emenating from the inside, so she hops down and enters the building in search of him.
As it turns out, trying to sneak up on someone who has no apparent problem with darkness through a rattled department store isn't such a great idea. X) Some pots strewn on the ground meet Hideaki's feet with a startling clang. o.O; The muttering nearby is swiftly replaced by soft footsteps. A small grunt of effort is the only warning Hideaki gets as a kunai is hurled at him from the side. "Noshey meddlersh!" hisses the man after the attack is made. "Why can't you ever leave ush alone!" >.<
Over in the other building, Noab and Rin pick their way through the mess in exploration of the building. They begin to find signs that not all of the open crates were broken during the storehouse's descent. Some of them look like they were pulled apart, chewed even, and a trail of mostly-devoured scraps leads through the room. Suddenly something BIG AND FURRY comes charging back along that trail from the darkness! Noab drops his glowstick and brings up his axe just in time to wedge the shaft into the jaws of a gigantic mole. >.U; The creature knocks Noab onto his back and presses hard against the axe, trying to get its teeth into Noab. The glowstick on the floor illuminates precious little of the scene, mostly just the outline of the enormous furry bulk.
What a supremely stupid plan, Hideaki realizes as the pots hit the ground. Fortunately, aware he may be under assualt at any moment, he readies his ears for the sound of an attack. As he hears the soft footsteps, he quickly summons a clone which steps out of him to right, but not fast enough: the kunai is thrown before he can even complete the technique, and poofs harmlessly as the kunai cuts into the flesh just above Hideaki's right hip. Hideaki winces, but the wound at least is not terribly serious. He scrambles to snap his glowstick and get it working as he focuses his chakra. "Stop this violence," he says. "Surely we can discuss the matter." His voice is rather devoid of obvious intonation, but his actions suggest he is not holding out enormous hope that his plea will bear fruit.
Rin doesn't really say anything as she meets up with Noab, she merely goes about investigating the storehouse. The chewed boxes were rather suspicious and she was about to comment on them before the giant mole decided to come charging into the buiding like the koolaid-man and tackle Noab like it had a personal vendetta on the man. "Noab!" She shouts and in an attempt to save him, she pulls together all available chakra and throws a powerful blow towards the creature's head, attempting to bludgeon it and knock it back and off of him.
Hideaki's glowstick reveals a curious sight. The man in the store has rather mole-ish features, short and hunched with a long nose. He's also wearing black goggles, and angles his head with the characteristic not-looking-at-you tilt of a person who doesn't rely on sight. Not a huge surprise, considering. He seems to be aware of what the crack of the glowstick means, though, because he immediately takes steps to neutralize it. He goes through a few handseals, and a column of earth shoots up through the floor toward Hideaki's hand. "It'sh not fair! Even down here, you try to take advantage of me!" >P
Meanwhile, Rin's chakra attack smacks into the giant mole's head, an easy target as it's so focused on Noab. Not a very easily-damaged target, though. The hit does have the effect of imbalancing the mole's push on the axe shaft. Its jaws slide sideways along the shaft, the teeth scraping Noab's knuckles in the process. >.U; The mole rears back to recenter its attack, and Noab spots his chance. He lifts his good leg and shoots his boot into the mole's gut using partial expansion. The mole is knocked back, and Noab gets to his feet. The mole rolls onto its paws and decides to go after Rin this time! >E
Hideaki responds with handseals of his own, and there is a sucking sound to his left which he quickly steps through as the column heads straight for his hand. He manages to get himself and the glowstick out of the way just in time. He sticks the lit object in one of the pockets of his vest to completely free his hands, then eyes his opponent. "I remind you that you attacked me. I was content with a conversation." He flips open a pocket of his vest, makes some handsigns, and blows into it. At once, a group of tags flutters out of the pocket and then, caught by a breeze, strangely fall into formation, fluttering directly for the strange moleman.
Rin curses quietly as her attack on the mole seems to do nothing more than cause the thing to harm Noab, somewhat. But thankfully, the more experienced shinobi capitulates upon the opening and throws the thing off of him. Much to her chagrin, the thing soon comes after her, and so she swipes her arms across her body, pulling her chakra around her like a blanket, hardening it into a visible shield between her and the mole. Hopefully it wouldnt break through.
Hearing the fluttering of tags, the mole-man brings up a barrier of earth to defend himself. It forms just in time, the tags latching onto its surface. The mole-man squeeks in alarm as the tags cause the earth shield to crumble away. "All right, fine! Keep all thish shtuff! I'm getting out of here!" The mole-man darts, if you could call his shuffling run darting, for the other end of the store-house, where he presumably has an escape route.
The giant mole lunges at Rin with jaws spread wide — and stubs its nose on something hard. x.x It's not used to things that smell fleshy and chewy turning out to have shells! D: Noab takes the opportunity to get in a shot at the critter. He could use earth manipulation, there's plenty of it around, but that might cause the building to collapse, and the mole's probably used to dealing with earth anyway. :P So Noab calls on his other elemental affinity: fire! A scorching ball of flame envelops the mole, causing it to squeal in anguish and flee for the far reaches of the building.
Hideaki momentarily considers his options. On the one hand, he is already slightly injured and the mole-man has proven to not be an entirely incompetent adversary. On the other hand, simply going back to the village that hired them and announcing the likely culprit escaped was probably counter to the spirit of the mission. After all those thoughts rifle through his head, he breaks into a sprint, rushing after the mole. As he does so, he makes several quick handsigns, and another version of himself steps out of his body. This one is formed by a swirling gust of wind and moves much more quickly than his previous clone. It rushes directly toward the mole-man, simply smashing its body against the strange creature in an explosion of air. Hideaki, meanwhile, attempts to rush in front of the man's intended path.
"Not so fast," Hideaki says icily. "We still need to have a conversation about theft and its consequences."
Rin takes a couple steps forward and looks over to where the mole had been practically burned to death, and then back to Noab. "Impressive, Noab-san." She then folds her arms. "So, moles have been stealing stuff? What exactly would they want with these things? Or, do we assume they are being used as tools for someone else?"
The mole-man is floored by Hideaki's wind clone. DX Sensing punishment, he curls up in a ball and whimpers. "No, pleashe, I'll be good now, don't hurt me." Seems he's got a few mental issues stemming from past treatment. c.c Makes him pretty cooperative with capture from this point on, though.
The mole-man, one Fukai Horu by name, turns out to be an experimental ninja from some cruel and ambitious minor ninja village. He was blinded at a young age and trained specifically for underground operations. He eventually escaped his village, but was unable to function well in normal society. Then he met the giant mole and formed a team with the greedy creature, hatching their scheme to sink buildings for valuables and food. A tragic tale, but no less criminal for it. Horu is brought in for trial, and the giant mole, if it lived, is probably going to think twice about causing the sort of destruction that gets ninja called in again.