Date: November 14, 2013
The pair step foot onto the island chain guarded by that unknown sea creature. But it is a victory they're given no time to savor, as the first island proves that its reputation is well earned.
"Soul of Iron - Through the Forest"
The Unclaimed Isles — Edge of The Land of Water
Meruin stepped onto the sands of the first of the island chains, leaving behind the ocean, the wreckage of the ship with the crew on board, and the giant aquatic creature that had caused the turmoil and then, later, vanished into the deep. Immediately upon the first step on the sands, he both felt and saw a shifting in the trees up ahead.
'It was said that any who stepped foot onto it met with adversity and death, should they not have the means to escape before such a fate.'
He had hoped that it would not be so literal and immediate an effect, this 'curse' upon this island chain and those who walked its sands. But perhaps that could also be a benefit. He looked up and ahead towards Onimitsu who had taken to the sky to try and avoid the sea monster and stayed there to escape to the island. Perhaps if the man stayed in the sky, he would not be assaulted by whatever or whomever was stirring in the forest up ahead. As for the Okumo himself, he would keep running and meet them head on. They had the advantage of covered terrain with him being out in the open. Nowhere to hide for him, and they could launch ranged assaults and try and stay hidden from view without issue.
"Onimitsu. On guard!" he called.
Onimitsu had not forgotten the tales about the isles. Which is why he kept airborne and well out of blast range for any explosive traps that might've been set on the beach. One can never be too certian just how literal a tale can be. Having been roughly the first to arrive, the armor bearing shinobi used those first scant few moments to survey the area, both along the beach front as well as the immediate forest. Unfortunately, the tree cover proves to dense to see anything. The sounds emnating from the forest yielding nothing one would not expect.
That is what he sensed at first.
Crimson heavy eye locks onto a shape in the forest. One that was most certianly NOT normal. Then again, it could be his paranoia getting the best of him. The time for thinking evaporates the instant Meruin gives the call to be on guard. Almost thoughtlessly, Onimitsu followed the command by drawing his sword and taking a rough aerial version of a defensive kata for a swordsman.
Now they wait…
The shifting from the forests grow more apparent, the number of forms within the trees swiftly growing to higher numbers. The sounds emanating from the forest are dully or sharply metallic, as though there were many blades banging against tree or steel, respectively. There were other noises as well, somewhat reminiscent of that of bone rattling against itself. It was this sound that grew before there were sudden projectiles shot from the treeline, a great number of blade tipped ivory chains shooting towards the both of the shinobi, whether airborne or not. Whomever was within those trees was obviously armed, numerous, and fully prepared to kill before any questions were answered.
The unnatural feel Onimitsu gets from the assailants within the treeline was by no means paranoia. With the many of them at the edge of the forest, only partially hidden by a tree or two, one could see glimpses and pieces most of the many to get a picture of the whole, and it was… wrong.
The held vaguely humanoid shapes, with bodies of flesh that appeared grey in the shadow of the trees. For the each of them, one arm was a simple construct of metal ending in a sword, the length of the appendage nearly reaching the floor. The other arm was a metallic tube, reaching only about a foot in length and ending in a blade. And it is from these appendages that the bladed chains were coming out of, the links of said chain seeming to be made of… bone. With patches and plates of steel adorning each in various places, it was clear that they were some unholy melding of flesh and metal. Pure weapons.
Meruin had never stopped running forward. The position of disadvantage was never one a combatant wanted to idle within. So rather than waiting, he found himself running headlong into the spray of bladed chains shot in his direction. His eyes narrowed as he launched into a horizontal leap, legs and spider limbs splaying and maneuvering as he spins to avoid harm from some. With the angles too odd to safely land on his feet, he tucks to drop into a roll, coming up with his platinum furred hands batting another two projectiles out of the way.
What these were, he did not know.
But they were in the way, and they had to be removed. So the Okumo continued his dash forward, a flood of darkness bursting from him. They were spiders, their many forms rushing forward to attempt envelope and tear apart the many surrounding creatures, focusing on crippling rather than killing. There were plenty, so the majority focused on tearing tendons in legs and biting apart eyes. And it seemed to prove fairly successful, though he had less success with the more direct whips of caustic spider silk he attempted to lash them with as he entered the forest, the creatures defending themselves decently with their blades so that he rarely got a hit in.
<Focus, Dear. They're not done with us yet.>]
It is the first thought to pass through the crimson armored man's head before the voice admonishes him and… the attacks began. From there, all non-combat oriented thoughts cease and not a moment too soon. As soon as weaving out of path of the projectiles failed to keep him from spinning out, Onimitsu changed tatics by diving down at an angle to the forest, blade held ready to try and deflect the others. The results are mixed and earns him more dents in his armor earlier than he had expected. As much as the bruises beneath his armor hurt — or would later should he survive this encounter — it is wing being clipped and the symbotic relationship he had with the appendage that nearly did him in. He closed his eye, hoping to will away the pain. However, in doing so he opened himself up to more.
Digging deep, Onimitsu recentered himself. Then opened his eye and began to scan his surroundings for a place to land, seeing as how he was to exposed and too unaccoustom still with fighting airborne. The foliage below provides the most suitable cover, so he takes off in a more controlled dive. One last projectile manages to clip him in the process despite his blade being raised in time to deflect it off its main target: the head.
Spinning seemingly out of control, Onimitsu hits the ground roughly but hits it running while remaining low and undercover. From the sounds of the amalgams that assualted him, the swordsman's actions were not enough.
Some of the composite bladesman do go down around Meruin, their legs rendered inoperable. So despite being partially made of steel and obviously manufactured, their flesh was enough of a weakness to be used against them. They did not seem to feel pain, however, as those that had only had their eyes effected didn't seem as though they'd notice if they hadn't also been blinded, leaving them to simply slash in his direction when they were near him, sometimes hitting their own kind due to having to rely on hearing.
The Okumo was swiftly surrounded for his headlong rush, a trio of them swinging their arm blades at relatively the same time to try and cut him down. But the group surrounding him was not nearly as large as it could have been. Indeed, it only ran one amalgam deep as all others had immediately rushed after Onimitsu as he landed in the bushes further in. The two nearest the armored shinobi launched their bone-link chained blades at him.
Meruin's eyes flickered towards Onimitsu as he saw the Kirigakure shinobi leave the skies in a fairly uncontrolled appearing manner, the Okumo taking that as a sign to return to his side just as swiftly as possible. He soon found himself surrounded, though not by as many as he'd thought he would be, considering the number of creatures here. The exact number was unknown, but he believed he'd personally seen somewhere between 35 and 45.
All he knew was that there were far too many and that this was only the first of the islands in this chain to be searched. So he withdrew his spiders, bringing them back within his form as he raised a sleekly furred arm, blocking a sword strike and guiding the weapon to intercept the slash of another even as he blocked another with an upraised arm, the chitin beneat the fur his protection.
Swiftly, the platinum spider legs stemming from his back bent and then launched him forward, taking him jumping from tree to tree, low to the base of the trees. He followed the composite creatures until Onimitsu came in sight, perturbed by the fact that he was able to do so. With their numbers and the work they would have to do, it would be better to evade them rather than to take them all on, but it was beginning to look as though it would not be possible.
Nevertheless, once his teammate came into sight, a black blade of chitin came into his hand, edges ragged and deadly before he nearly vanished with his speed. One single leap, blade held out to cut through as each of the amalgams left between himself and Onimitsu, both putting him near the man and giving them a bit of a lead from their pursuers.
"How high can you fly and how soon?"
"Persistant." He murmur as he ducked under one of the bone-link chained blades, and then did slid into an about face, deflecting the other with a swipe of his sword. Unwilling to be pursued to the end of the island, Onimitsu burst forward from that point while they were still trying to withdraw their weapons. At the last moment he lept forward meaning to disarm the sword arm of one with an upward stroke before trying to roundhouse kick the other into his contemporary. Both strikes connect, though only one actually touch flesh and even then the damage was not significant.
At any other time he might've mentally cursed or immediatly switched tactics. Serenity. While within that state it kept his mind clear of obscenities and pain; focusing it instead towards using what precious few seconds the amalgams give him to analyze their form up close and personal.
"How high can you fly and how soon?"
"High as desired. Wings are clipped at the moment. An hour's recover at least without personal repair." Onimitsu states without so much as turning to regard the Okumo. After his original opponent's finally succumbed to their injury inflicted in passing by the Okumo did he dare to release the breath he had been holding. "Better to hide for now… Unless you got a better plan?"
Six of the composite creatures fell to the blade of the Kirigakure Jounin, leaving the two shinobi a little breathing room. But not much. Not nearly enough to be stopping. Those that ran after them swiftly approached near enough to raise the tubes of their left arms and launch those bone chained daggers once more, a full dozen of them streaking towards the pair from the trees.
Meruin's eyes sharpened on their pursuants, arms raising in a defensive stance. "Let's keep moving." But before he started off, the sight and sound of the projectiles being sent their way met his senses. As he raised his hands, stepping forward to block the projections with a myriad of flashing hands, even taking a pair of attacks that had been aimed towards the comrade next to him, he spoke. "I am not sure how effective attempting to hide will be for us. They seem to have more sensory abilities than the is immediately apparent." His immediate danger averted, he turned about to begin running, though he wouldn't allow himself to outpace Onimitsu too much if he ended up going swifter.
"But they have no hands. Climbing should be difficult. If you can fly above the trees, you should be able to stay beyond their reach, even from those bone chains. And perhaps you can get a better view of our terrain. Unless you know more than you'd shared, we do not know where in this entire chain of islands we must go to complete our objective. We need more direction, and we need to get to safety."
Wordlessly, Onimitsu follows the instant Meruin takes off, aware of their persuers still being hot on their tail, but not of the projectiles until he heard the clang of metal on chitin rings close-by. He jerks his head sharply back for a moment, then returns it to Meruin as he began speaking. "Hnn." But nothing more before he senses the attacks still aimed at him. Legs work in overtime to keep his progress well ahead of most of the projectiles or off their flight path with a quick leap at a angle to keep from losing ground. What he doesn't evade armor gauntlet takes care of.
"… We'll take to the trees for now and stay on the move from there." His eyes narrow in consternation. "If nothing else, their most dangerous form of attack will be stayed for a time. Time enough for my wings to recover." 'Perhaps' The word goes unspoken for both had probably thought along those same lines. With that said, Onimitsu takes the lead and makes the first move for the tree tops; tree walking as necessary until the canopy is in reach. A glance back is given to make sure the Okumo follows. Then Onimitsu tries for higher with the wish to reduce their enemies ability to target them accurately from such points.
Unbidden, the Yoshimitsu draws upon his hosts energy reservers, converting into the energy its master would need. It is as much as it could. For now.
Those creates of flesh and metal simply continue their dogged pursuit, the sounds of their feet pounding the earth beneath following behind like a dull roar. As the two shinobi take to the trees, only three were close enough to launch their bladeed chains at the trio. With Meruin lagging slightly behind, he was the target of two of those attacks, while the furthest ahead was near enough to launch one at Onimitsu, though only barely. Others tried but once the pair got higher up, their tethered weapons only struck wood or air before being rescinded.
Meruin wordlessly followed after Onimitsu, utilizing simple leaps and tree walking to make his way up the trees after the other. The weapons of the creatures beneath him simply bounced off of his body, unable to pierce the tough chitin that covers his body beneath the fur of platinum spider silk.
Of course, that fur and chitin fell away, sinking into his skin once he realized that he was out of the reach of the creatures below. There was no point in using that energy to keep hold of that transformation if he would not be fighting. And, in truth, no need to utilize it when fighting those foes. They were not at all what that giant creature had been.
He paused from his high vantage point, looking down at the composite creatures down below.
Thus far, the plan seems to have worked out well for the duo. Mostly. One particularily determined composite creature had managed to fire off a lucky shot and pierce Onimitsu, armor and all.
'My thanks, Akahime' Onimitsu thought as he cast his eye back briefly to see that a log had taken his place. Path now currently clear to begin the healing process once more, Onimitsu can now turn his attention to restoring his energy. There was no room for error, so only the superficial is restored. Thankfully, this included the wing nicked earlier. Given another few minutes he might just get airborne. That is… unless something worse lurked upon the bridge between heaven and earth.
The composite creatures gathered underneath the tree that the two Kirigakure shinobi had taken refuge in, the multitude surrounding the trunk and looking up from often misshapen and metallic heads. Their numbers were… large. And indeed, more and more seemed to be appearing from every direction, leaving the crowd below to steadily grow bigger. If things continued on in this vein, after perhaps half an hour, the two would've traded one ocean for an ocean of flesh, iron, and deadly intent. Still, despite their numbers, they cannot reach the two. Some shoot their blades into the branches of trees and attempt to pull themselves up by reeling it in, but their weight inevitably leads to the sharp blades pulling from the wood and them falling down onto those who stand below.
Meruin looked up from the troubling number of those restless creatures below, misted gaze turning towards the armored shinobi who was healing himself. "I would prefer to be trapped up here for as short a time as possible. I cannot say whether or not they are intelligent enough to figure out to cut down the tree we stand in, but if they do, it will not take them very much time to see it done. We need to decide upon our next maneuver. How much more time do you need to be fit to fly? We could use your surveillance."
"No more." From focused to warm, silver to crimson, Onimitsu undergoes a metamorphis from armor on down to conscious. Afterwards he leapt over to Meruin's branch and offered to take him aloft, placing them both at risk at once. But could either of them say it would be safer for the Okumo to remain for the time being? Not likely. Meruin's refusal does come as some suprise for the swordsman and after a few moments being given to see if the Okumo might have an alternative plan, Onimitsu takes to the skies above the island. At most he dares to go no higher than a mile above the tree line. Several more if need be on a hunch but just that before trying to survey the rest of the island they currently had to contend with.
Structures, oddities, and then a path are what he focuses on the most.
Onimitsu's view of the island from up above would prove to be… of little help. Little would be revealed to him that he didn't already know. What wasn't beachland in this area was covered in trees but for the two of places holding some smaller bodies of water. The island truly wasn't a very big one. A simple hour's travel could see them to the other end of it from where Meruin currently is.
There was no real information to be gained about the forest below. The fact that there was little but trees visible on the island below didn't necessarily mean that there wasn't anything on the island for them to find. It just meant that that they'd have to wade through those creatures down below, searching the whole of it to be sure.
But there was one thing that the aerial view yielded. It wasn't any information about -this- island but information about one of the others in this chain. Three islands down, in the center of the chain. Thick, dark orange smoke arose. Even if that were a natural shade of smoke, there hadn't been any storms or any of the like to spark a fire out here. What that meant, more than likely, was that there was someone there. And that to reach them, they would either have to travel through three more islands — though one appears to be empty, being nothing but treeless sand — or run across the water and take the chance of running back into that sea creature that'd assaulted them before they made land.
But things weren't all peaceful down below. Things had gotten quiet and still, but not peaceful. Below the Okumo stood those creatures, now still as statues, simply staring up at him… But then their flesh began to bulge. Slide. Part… They came together, falling into grotesque piles of flesh and bone and steel. Those piles grew in size and came together, joining. There was little doubt that the amalgamous creatures were melding together, though what the exact results of it would be wouldn't be clear until form of some type took shape.
Nothing and Something. It was worse than he feared. His consious — The armored shinobi's genuine conscious and not the voices from the Yoshimitsu — assaulted him with the same question, over and over again. 'If'. The content may have changed but the start always remained the same. Her jerks up and down in the air, wings having stalled out as his emotions cascaded through his chakra network and disrupted the flow.
"Yosh." He murmurs grimly before diving down back to tree cover. His intent had been to report the news and try to work out a plan with Meruin. And while his plan is followed trhough in a fashion, Onimitsu has to stop himself from stalling again after catching sight of the transformation their former pursuers were taking on. "
It was the single word spoken by Meruin once Onimitsu had offered to take him up into the sky with him, accompanied by an arch of the brow. The Okumo knew that even if the armored man of the Manji clan could actually lift him, take him into the air, and keep him there on those newly and likely only partially healed wings of his, he wouldn't be able to go very high with the added weight. He would rather stay and wait, leaving Onimitsu as effective as possible.
Of course, his patience was swiftly depleted by the sight of the composite bladesmen below apparently tearing themselves apart and joining together in a sight mildly unsettling to even him, who has seen many hybrid experiments through his DNA manipulating clan. Some things simply were not meant to exist. These were swiftly shaping up to be one of those things. And he didn't want to be around for the birth of whatever it was that was going to come out of that disturbing mass. So he wrapped himself in wind chakra, using it to leap out of the trees and high into the sky. He didn't make it as high as Onimitsu, but a powerfully thrown shuriken that would be off course but within sight of Onimitsu could draw attention to him. His leap wasn't straight up. It was arcing in the direction they'd been running, and he'd hoped the shinobi would see and follow to his new, distanced location.
Nothing and Something. It was worse than he feared. His conscious — The armored shinobi's genuine conscious and not the voices from the Yoshimitsu — assaulted him with the same question, over and over again. 'If'. The content may have changed but the start always remained the same. Her jerks up and down in the air, wings having stalled out as his emotions cascaded through his chakra network and disrupted the flow.
"Yosh." He murmurs grimly before diving down back to tree cover. His intent had been to report the news and try to work out a plan with Meruin. A shuriken derails that plan for a few moments, but it also served its purpose. Altering his course, Onimitsu pursues Meruin and would try to deliver the news in route to wherever it was the Okumo intended to go. Curious, he almost went on to ask as to why they needed to move again, but refrained for the time being. If the Okumo needed to move that badly then chances are it was for a good reason; especially after what they narrowly avoided.
Meruin nodded to Onimitsu once the man had flown down to meet him, wind chakra allowing his arcing leap to take him far. He listened to Onimitsu's report, looking to the smoke further down the island chain as it was mentioned. Something. But what, precisely, they couldn't be sure. Of course, that was why they were here.
The Okumo landed in the higher bough of a tree in his new location, having simply jumped in the same direction they were running to get away from what was there rather than to get anywhere in particular. But it seemed that they had been moving in the right direction, anyway.
The Okumo looked to Onimitsu. "That smoke is the only clue we have right now. We must investigate it. Travel over the islands will be more time consuming, but even with these creatures present it should be safer than to risk facing the leviathan from earlier by cross the sea. We travel to the next island. It seems clear. We may be able to rest there. And we must travel swiftly. I am no longer sure what is on our trail, but I know that it will be large. Come."
And with that, he starts off towards the next island.
Seeing as how the armored shinobi had to stay flying low in order to converse with the Okumo he kept his vision focused on the trees ahead. He listens though and is patient. "Another trap, more than likely." He mused aloud, but by that point Meruin has pulled well ahead of him and possibly out of hearing range. With a sigh, he speeds along on after the boy, drawing focusing what little chakra he could spare along the way in preparation of what was bound to be awaiting them ahead. Or perhaps better yet, for what pursues them even now.
A sound akin to an explosion rings out from behind the pair.
From where the two shinobi had just relocated from, wood ranging from the size of splinters to that of jagged spears the nearly the length of an entire tree sprays into the air. And then another explosion rings out as another tree is simply shorn apart, steps heavy enough to shake the trees that weren't torn apart the mark of whatever they had left behind beginning to give chase. And it was picking up speed.
A frown found Meruin's face at the explosion. And those footsteps. They were now being hunted. There were no words as he simply began dashing away from whatever had been left behind and towards something he was as sure was a trap as Onimitsu was. But he was willing to take the gamble that it would be an improvement over their current situation, even if only by the fact that they were closer to the center of the island chain.
So he sprinted.
<Don't look back.>
It was demand, not a suggestion. Onimitsu almost failed to heed those words after hearing trouble brew behind them. Wood splintering, trees trembling even as far as they raced across the island. Dread did not even begin to describe what Onimitsu felt upon noticing the signs. Just a peek. It's all he wished for and then that would be it. He resisted though, if only barely, and stayed on the move. Always a step ahead of Meruin. Albeit the wings might of had something to do with that.
He pressed on.