Date: March 13, 2017
A town is poisoned and a family is murdered.
"Spreading Poison: Creepy Cop, Brutal Cop"
A village somewhere in The Land of Lightning
Poison. At first they thought that the sickness was due to some epidemic illness, but over time it became clear the numerous deaths were the work of a skilled poisoner. Kumo medics are working around the clock to try and help the suffering villagers, and relief efforts are being coordinated. As to the identity of the poisoner, no one could find a solid lead. Until today. All along the poisoner had been creating symptoms similar to a normal disease, but this was outright murder. A family murdered while they ate at their dinner table—food that had been poisoned. In the room is a Kumo medic who has just confirmed the food was poisoned. And there's the village apothecarist, who is agitated at the scene.
They discovered the bodies only an hour ago. Initially Kasuya and Ginrei were called in to help with standard relief efforts. Now they were here, and Kasuya says, "We can't wait for backup. We need to follow this lead while it's fresh. I need to ask you a few questions, Shirota. You're the village's healer. Do you know of anyone in your village who is skilled with poison?"
"No," the apothecarist says, staring at the family. "Who would do such a thing?"
Relief effort. Those two words seemed to be the job that Ginrei's future would be resigned to. That is until Kasuya says that they cannot wait for backup. Ginrei nods his head in acknowledgement. The apothecarist did not seem to know of anyone capable of this. Ginrei decides to question the mednin. "I was wondering if I could ask you some questions while you work. I do not mean to side track you, but the other cases… was it possible that the posion was administered through food, maybe a specific type of food?" It seemed with no obvious candidate, the pair needed to look at other options to narrow down the investigation.
The medic is testing the bread now. The meal was bread, a hot pot known as nabe, and fried peppers. But he does nod to Ginrei and starts to talk while he carries on his tests. "The nabe is poisoned," he says. "So are the peppers. The bread seems clean. And now I'm certain of it. This poison was added after the nabe had been prepared, not before. This particular poison has a delayed reaction. And yet…"
He looks around at the table. "From a poisoner's point of view this is incredible. They all died of poison, at the same time, or at least that's how we found them. And they were left here for people to appreciate…"
"A horrifying work of art," the apothecarist says, and he snaps his fingers. "I have an idea who might have the skill to do this. I pick up many of my herbs from an old gardener in town. But even if he has the skill…I don't think he'd do such a thing…he's a kind old man."
Kasuya looks closely at the people, and turns to Ginrei. "Ginrei-kun, time is of the essence. Go with the apothecarist and meet the gardener. Do whatever it takes to find something out, and /don't/ return here without something useful." Then she'd turn back to continue questioning the medic.
Ginrei nodded as the mednin placed the poison in the food. He wanted to call it to the docks, but the way it was narrowed down would have lead to the gardener. "Understood." Ginrei asks as he follows the apothecarist to find the gardener. "Why poison two different objects in the meal? It kind of seems like maybe this is an escalation of their crimes. Seems like maybe they like this sort of thing."
The apothecarist rubs his chin at Ginrei's question. "I suppose he poisoned both to increase the chances of them ingesting the poison. What if you someone didn't want one of the dishes? If only one was poisoned, they may have been spared. The Takada family are all dead from the same poison. The parents and those two boys…" He shakes his head again. "Monstrous. But what your medic said was that the poison had an herbal base. It was made from plants. And one of those I recognize as the gardener's."
They arrive at a traditional house with a tatami mat porch and thatched roof. All around it is a fence that encloses a vast garden. Plants from herbs to food to flowers grow in the springtime. The apothecarist pauses. "The gardener is my friend. I…I'm afraid you may have to question him. I couldn't possibly do so. I believe he's innocent though…I hope…" They'd approach the door, and the apothecarist knocks. There's a long delay until the gardener edges it open.
"I was expecting you," he says. "Come in." And once they did he closes the door firmly behind him. "Who are you, boy?" He's a balding, wrinkled man, at least in his sixties, but he still has his strength and energy.
Ginrei listens to the name of the family that was murdered. One of the few questions to be asked yet was why. Motive had not been established. "I have no problem questioning him. Just because he might have forged the blade or parts that made it, does not mean he was the one to use it."
As the elderly man lets them in, Ginrei offers a slight bow. "Seishukuni Ginrei. I have a few questions for you on behalf of the village." Ginrei pauses a moment but leaves his eyes on the man. "Why were you expecting us?"
The gardener's home smells freshly of herbs, and dried bundles of plants hang from the ceiling. It's a room full of life. The gardener sits on one of the cushions around the low table. "My name is Kuro," he says. "And I was friends with the Takada family. As soon as I heard they were killed from poison…possibly herbal poison…I started searching my garden for missing plants. And I found these two. They went missing a day ago." He gestures to a few plants he had put into pots. It's clearly been torn. "Neither of them are poisonous though. I thought it was just some naughty village children who'd taken it…if I'd known…"
The apothecarist inspects both of the plants, frowning. "This white flower is called shiriki was used as a base for the poison." He stares at the gardener. "Kuro…did you kill the Takada family?" he asks in horror.
"No!" the gardener barks. "How dare you…how dare you…"
Back in the home Kasuya has finished questioning the medic. "So shiriki and fungus and blah blah blah were used…okay. Catalog this. And let's cover the bodies. It's undignified." She goes to lay down the family and pull blankets over them.
Ginrei waves down the apothecarist. "It is too early to ask questions like that. Calm yourself or go sit outside." Ginrei's eyes now focused on the Apothecarist while he made his choice. "For the moment Kuro, I believe you. How rare are these plants? Is this something I would find on the black market or something I would have to go pick myself? Where do you get them from?" he asked.
The apothecarist moves outside. "These plants grow in the wild," Kuro says, "and they're not exactly poisonous. They're similar to narcotics. Used correctly, they can numb a person's body, and make them ignore pain in their body. This one is just a normal seasoning herb, similar to garlic." He pushes them towards Ginrei. "You can take them."
Then the gardener hesitates. "I should tell you. About one year ago another person died from poison. A little girl who ate some bad berries. She died before any of us could do anything, I'm afraid."
Kasuya lays down the last body, a small boy, and that's when she hears it. A thin, faint noise. She leans down towards the boy and it's unmistakable. "This one is alive!" she says. "Medic. Get your incompetent butt over here and help him!"
Ginrei ponders the plants. He was starting to get a picture of the person who would do this. It was like puzzle pieces with a lot of them still missing. "Tell me more about this girl. How was it similar to the situation now?" he asks. He wanted to know why Kuro though this was important. His eyes focused on the plant compared to garlic. It was a seasoning herb. "This seasoning herb… is it popular among establishments that serve food?" he asks. He wanted to know why this was one of the ingredients specifically selected in this situation.
"The girl was named Kunoi," the gardener says. "She was only seventeen. And…" He stops, as if something had occurred to him, and his face gets a closed look. "I don't want to talk about painful subjects like that. It doesn't matter." At least he doesn't seem to think it matters. He changes the subject. "As for the herb it's popular in this region. We're well known for it. But I will tell you this. Even if you identify the poison that murdered the Takada family, I think it's different from the poison that has spread all over the region." He pauses, opens his mouth to say something, and then closes it. "So do you have any leads?"
Ginrei notices a change in the man's attitude. He seemed a bit less helpful. "I have two suspects." the young man would state as crystals started to over take the man. "Scream and I will make sure that you are the only thing that will be planted in the ground in the near future." Ginrei glanced towards the door. "You are leaving out some details about the girl. You are going to tell them to me. You better be convincing cause I am running short on patience and have a surplus on causing pain. Next you are going to tell me why these two poisons are different people and who you think they are. Again, short patience, heavy on causing you pain. Got it?"
The gardener pales at the sight of the deadly attacks. "No, no, no, no," he says in a rush, holding up his hands. "No need for that. Please don't hurt me. I'm innocent, I tell you. I just didn't want to go digging up past wounds." And he tells the story. The girl was the sister of the apothecarist. She died from eating a poisonous wild plant. No one in the village could help her, and help did not arrive from outside in time. "Villagers assume he's related to this, since she also died around the dinner table," the gardener says. "That's why you see no one near him even though his help is needed now. But I don't believe it. He's helped keep this village healthy for years. He's innocent."
Ginrei shrugs his shoulders and releases the man. "Something like that is something we need to know." He waves his hand to the man as he heads towards the door. "I am going to go talk to him. You stay here. I really hope I do not need to find you again. Also, if there is anything else, you might want to tell me now. I really hate being lied to." Ginrei says as he moves towards the door. Hopefully the Apothecary was on the other side where he was told to be.
Before Ginrei goes the gardener says, "Wait. I need to tell you. The Takada family was the best in our village. Always bringing the most food to the festivals, always willing to lend a hand. They were kind, intelligent, warm hearted people. They were the last people to deserve this horrible thing. I hope you find whoever did this." With that he'd slump back down in his chair.
Outside it's madness. People are going around screaming, laughing, saying that the Takada boy is alive! Somehow it's managed to get out, and very quickly. The apothecarist is nowhere in sight. A village boy runs up to Ginrei. "The creepy lady says she wants to see you right now," he tells him. "It doesn't matter if you've found anything yet, come right away."
Ginrei was not surprised the apothecarist left. It did paint him in a bad light. Just as soon as Ginrei sees the commotion, he hears the boy survived. Before he can respond a young boy tells him the creepy woman wants to see him. He nods and sends the kid on his way. "By the way, she eats babies too." he states as the kid runs off. Ginrei then makes his way towards the Takada house. He was interested to see what she was able find out from the young boy.
When Ginrei says that Kasuya eats babies the boy's eyes widen. "She does?" he gasps. "Cool!" Back in the home the scene has changed. The bodies have been removed, and the dead boy sits up in bed. He's not resting, nor is he crying. He is being helped by another village, as he writes feverishly on a paper. Kasuya drifts over to Ginrei. His face has a terrible intensity on it: hate. Fury. Vengeance. "We're in luck," she says. "The boy wants to help. He doesn't know who the poisoner is, so I'm having him write down all the people he's met in the past three days. So, have any leads?"
Ginrei's eyes focus on the boy. He had seen that face before. It was a face that wanted revenge. It likely would not stop there. "The apothecarist. He became irrate with the gardener. I asked him to step outside and he took off. We need to know when the last time the Apothecary was here. I know the ingredients came from the gardener's garden. He says they were stolen. He also said the Apothecaries sister died from a similar poison. It was based off a spice kind of like garlic. Not normally poisonous."
"You asked him to step outside," Kasuya says, in a deadpan tone. She pauses, considering Ginrei, before she says, "I did hear something about a girl dying once from poison. I didn't know it was his sister. If I'd known…" She goes over to the boy and says, "Hey kid tell me. When was the last time you saw the apothecarist?" The boy answers in a raspy voice. The apothecarist had come just yesterday and spoken with his mother. Kasuya takes in a few other things he says, and then nods to Ginrei. "Go find the apothecarist, and bring him to me right now. Bring the gardener too."
For a moment, Ginrei regrets telling the apothecarist to step outside. No one knew he was even a suspect though. Ginrei gives a nod before heading out the door. He points at the first kid he sees. "Where is the Apothecarist? I need to find him right away." He then glances around to make sure he was not anywhere near.
The boy points to the direction Ginrei had come from. "He went to the gardener's home," he says, and he sounds nervous. It's clear the villagers have already distanced themselves. Ginrei wouldn't have to go far, not even into the home. The door is slightly ajar, and the apothecarist stands amidst the flora and fauna. He's turned, looking away from the village. He's not running and he sounds quite calm when he says, "I'm glad the boy is alive. I didn't mean for them to die. But it was necessary. The Takada family made a noble sacrifice, and so did I."
The eyes of Ginrei stare directly at the apothecarist. He waves his hand and the crystals form around the man. "You sacrificed a family? That sounds a lot like a man trying to justify his own selfish actions. I know. I've taken lives. In the end its no different if it is warranted or not. You are a fool. If it was a noble cause, it would have been you that was the sacrifice." Ginrei then moves past him looking for the gardener.
"Selfish?" the man says. "The ones who are selfish are you, the shinobi. You wouldn't come out to save a single village girl. It was too far, too small, that's how you've always seen us. Or rather, we're not even on your map…" His voice is bitter. "You are the scum of the earth, but even this you'll remember…" There's blood on his hands. Literally. On his shirt too.
The gardener is lying in his house, and he turns over with a pained moan. "I…I'm dying…" he says weakly. He's bleeding from numerous cuts. But for a man who studied human anatomy, the apothecarist did a lousy job of trying to kill the gardener. None of the cuts are lethal, though he may die from blood loss in a few hours if he's untreated. "Dying… but I pass on knowing… I have atoned for failing to save… herrr…." He gives an exaggerated groan.
Once Ginrei was certain the gardener was going to be ok, he turns around to the man encased in crystal. "People die all the time. Is it on my shoulders that you were ill prepared to save your own loved one. Maybe its simply easier to blame someone else than to accept what is? I know what I am. I know what I've done. I will not call an apple an orange only cause I feel the color is more suiting." Ginrei walks right up to the man in the crystal prison. "You just restarted the cycle. Now that child will hate you ever day of his life. He will seek vengeance for what was taken from him. Some village helper you are." Ginrei then releases the prison. "Back to the kids house. Please run. I'd love nothing more than to start shattering bones in your body." Ginrei would send a mednin to get the gardener.
"I wasn't a healer then. I became an apothecarist after my sister's death," the man says. "After he failed to save her." He glances in the direction of the gardener's house. When Ginrei tells him to go back to the house, the apothecarist looks at him without moving. And tears fill his eyes. The self pitying tears of a murderer. "They shouldn't have died. He told me the poison wasn't lethal. But some part of me knew…" He's holding something. An innocuous looking white pill. He doesn't move.
"Who else is involved?" Ginrei asks before noticing the pill. "Hand the pill over slowly. I do not know what it is but if you make a quick motion, I will take your hand as a keepsake from this little ordeal. Do you understand me?" he asks. His crystals were at the ready. He was not playing around.
"This pill?" the apothecarist asks. When Ginrei threatens him to hand it over there's a long pause. More than one villager has watching but safely from afar. Then the apothecarist moves. It's not to try and attack Ginrei or run away. He'd pop the pill into his mouth and swallow it in one go. Because of the consequences Ginrei set, it's clear what the nature of the pill is.
The shards form around. The man's hand well before it gets close to his mouth. Ginrei shakes his head. "I warned you." Ginrei then closes his hand and the shards stab into the man's hand. In the end there is nothing but mush. Ginrei then makes sure to cap off the wounded limb. He was certain the man would either pass out from pain or be screaming in agony. Either way he was certain Kasuya was just about to show up. It seemed to be Ginrei's luck.
"Actually I'm already here," a voice says from right behind Ginrei. Did she read his mind, or just guess what he was thinking? She looks dispassionately at the man who's now bawling pathetically on the ground. His hand is crushed in so many places even a skilled medic nin wouldn't be able to fix it. "That had better be the poisoner, or I'll kill you myself for harming a villager. Regardless of what else he did." But she doesn't seem to believe he's wrong. And she'd have all of them brought to the Takada residence.
Takada Yahiko looks at the apothecarist in surprise. "You…wait, was it you?" he asks, in shock and fury. His hands curl into fists, crumpling the list he'd made. Tears stand out in his eyes. "Why is he still alive?"
"We need to question him," Kasuya says. She ignores the apothecarist's evident pain and says, "Look at me." There's something irresistibly compelling about her, as she asks in a low, almost hypnotic voice, "Was it you who killed the Takadas? And if so, who else helped you."
"I…I did it. And I can't tell you," the apothecarist says. "I can't." He's cradling his half healed, broken hand, and tears roll down his cheeks. Yet he's shaking his head.
After Kasuya says she'd kill him if the apothecarist wasnt the poisoner, Ginrei gives her a smile. "Next time I'll let him swallow the pill and you can kill me for letting a villager harm himself. By the way, you might want to send a mednin in for the Gardener. No, that wasnt my work either." Ginrei then turns and marches past Kasuya back to the house. Once at the residence, Ginrei takes a seat off in the corner. He'd done his part for the mission.
Kasuya continues to question him, and he refuses to answer. At one point she even gathers her chakra, and her face takes on a strained expression. Finally, she huffs. "I should've sensed it earlier. A hypnotic suggestion has been placed in his mind. He can't divulge information on the true killer. I need more time. If he was a shinobi I could force this…but I'd risk turning a normal person's mind to mush. We may even have to take him back to Kumo…"
She goes over to grab a glass of water, and take a break. The medic would have brought the gardener in, and asked Ginrei to help give him a hand. The apothecarist crawls into a corner, whimpering and shaking. But it was the wrong corner. Yahiko was there, seemingly in bed and harmless. He makes no noise as he moves to grab the apothecarist's head, and with a dinner knife stab the man to death. The first one is a fatal one in itself, but that doesn't stop him from continuing to stab, as Kasuya drags him away and the gardener being healed in the corner gasps, "Yahiko-kun. What are you doing?" as if he can't believe his eyes.
"He had to…you were going to let him live…" Yahiko says, sobbing.
"It wasn't like that," Kasuya says, as she stares at their only lead, who the medic is unsuccessfully trying to revive. "Ugh…"