Date: April 4, 2011
A diplomatic mission to gain the aid of the reclusive Koumorite Clan begins.
"The Bat Hand - Meeting The Elders"
Koumorite Village - Land of Water
Following the failed invasion of the Land of Fire, though casualties were inflicted on both sides, Kirigakure has determined that it must form stronger ties to some of the ninja Clans of the Land of Water that previously were only loosely allied with the Mist, or who had previously been kept at a distance due to concerns about loyalty or due to political maneuvering by certain individuals.
To this end, Suzaku Yuri, Kaguya Yuuka, Kaguya Yoshihiro, and Nakajima Sadako have all been tasked with travelling to the Koumorite Clan's village that lies along the west coast. They are to do all that they can to secure the allegiance of the Koumorite so that the Clan's numbers will augment Kirigakure's own.
It is not a long journey for ninja, especially given the overall size of the Land of Water, but it takes several hours at least. The team arrives at the southern entrance to the village, where a few people wander in or out, or stand guard. The guards are garbed in the manner that the Koumorite Clan is known for — scarves and body-wraps that conceal most of the details of their appearances.
Sadako handles the travel without complaint, just a longer stride to stretch and cool down with after the hurry-hurry part is over. Taking off her glasses and using the reflection to wipe off any smudges on her face before replacing them, she approaches the gates with the rest of the group with her game-face on; for a diplomatic mission, this mostly means keeping her hands in plain sight and not taking obvious notes on things of interest. Her upbeat personality makes the cheery, friendly smile on her face even seem natural, too, though she hangs back a bit rather than opening dialogue with the guards.
As the team from Kirigakure draws closer to the entrance of the Koumorite village, Yoshihiro begins slowing down, unbending his lithe form from the angled posture that shinobi tend to adopt for lengthier journeys requiring several hours of travel. The guards on duty at the village gate are the first to capture his attention, his mismatched eyes scanning their layered attire with a cool, detached curiosity. As is customary for him, the young Kaguya stands several feet away from the rest of the group, maintaining a small radius of personal space about him. Though they've finally arrived, Yoshihiro refrains from speaking, glancing just once at Yuri before refocusing his attention on the guards in front of them in silence.
The long skirt of her dark kimono robes brushes along her legs as Yuuka moves silently, the length of her snow white hair hidden beneath the hood of her kimono while they travel. Her dark aquamarine eyes blink slowly as she looks at their surroundings with mild curiosity as the wind whips around her. The Kaguya kunoichi slows her pace with the others, her small feet bracing against the soft earth as they come to the gate of the village. Glancing to the others, Yuuka lifts a thin, pale brow as she sees them all hanging back, watching them for a few moments before her lips part with a light breath. Taking a few steps towards the guards, she lowers her chin with a faint bow as she murmurs, "We are here to speak with the Koumorite Clan."
Yuri was digging in a pouch at her waist for some sort of official document or something, and thus did not address the guards herself. The fact that Yuuka did so instead is perfectly fine. It speeds up the process! By the time the Swordswoman finally retrieves the scroll-case that presumably contains the message she is to deliver, one of the guards has responded.
"We are they," one of the guards responds in a surprisingly high-pitched voice for one of his build — though one clearly belonging to a human male. "Speak," he offers further. Yuri blinks her soft-brown eyes and clears her throat in preparation to talk. When the guards turn their attention on her, she almost hesitates. But she manages to keep going. "More specifically, we would like an audience with the Koumorite elders. We are from Kirigakure, and bear a message from the Mizukage."
The guards looks carefully at the four ninja, seeming to take in the details of the three females and one male with their beetle-black and reflective eyes that seem oddly 'slanted' or like gashes in their faces instead of proper eye sockets. One of the guards finally nods his acknowledgement and says, "You may follow me." Then he turns and heads into the village proper, apparently leading the way to the elders. Yuri shrugs and replaces the scrollcase in her pouch, before indicating for the team to follow.
The trek through the village is without incident. There are no indications of hostility or danger from anyone nearby. However, it >does< feel as though the actual Koumorite Clan members are keenly aware of the Mist ninja, as their eyes are constantly upon the quartet. Outsiders continue to go about their business without noticing or caring. The journey appears to be taking them towards a tall, rounded structure at the center of the village.
Sadako raises both her eyebrows briefly when looking back at Yuuka, as a more discrete version of a shrug. Though when she speaks up, followed by Yuri to underline things, Sadako does her part by nodding agreeably along to what the two senior kunoichi just said, "Are we going through the caves?" She directs the question mroe to Yuri than the guard-turned-guide, while doing her best to reign in the touristy impulse to look around and stare at the different village decorations. She keeps that mostly held back to glancing from the corners of her eyes in passing rather than turning to stare openly like a rube at the totems.
The exchange between the guards, Yuuka, and Yuri is observed by Yoshihiro in silence. Though his face remains bland and expressionless, the wariness he feels is there, subtle yet detectable to those who are perceptive: the slight, tense set of his shoulders; the slow, but unceasing movement of his gaze as it floats from person to person passing by them on their way to the elders. When Sadako speaks up, the male Kaguya reverts his focus back to his fellow teammates briefly before raising his eyes to look at the cliffs themselves and the caves hewn into them.
As the guards shift their attention to Yuri, Yuuka turns her covered head to glance to the swordswoman as well, though remains silent throughout the exchange before the guards look over the team as a whole, as if they could see something that the Kirigakure were unaware of. Her rich turquoise gaze blinks slowly as one nods towards them, beconing them to follow into the village itself as the gate opens. Yuuka narrows her gazes softly as she glances around the buildings, the people, mildly curious as the Kiri team is lead. The rounding structure soon earns her attention as she frowns subtly at it.
Yuri pretends to be cheerful and unaware of the eyes upon her and her team. Unlike the stares she is used to receiving from most males, the gazes from both men and women of the Koumorite feel somehow >more< predatory… As though she is being considered a victim or prey, rather than a human being. It is not a very friendly or welcoming sensation. But she carefully contains all signs of being perturbed by it, thanks to her many years of experience when it comes to acting like she is >not< constantly and completely paranoid.
Occasionally, indications of sudden movement may be picked up on by Yoshihiro and perhaps Yuuka as well. The movements are silent and any glances in the direction of their sources reveal nothing there. It may simply be the village's protectors following the team through the Clan's home to make sure no trouble crops up…
When Sadako asks her question, Yuri opens her mouth to answer. However, she only gets out, "That's—" before she is interrupted with a rather firm, "No." from their guide. Yuri finishes after a moment, "…Up to them. To the best of my understanding, the Koumorite are very protective of the caves that their ancestors inhabited. 'Outsiders' are discouraged from going into them." The guide does not contradict her or speak further.
Eventually, the team arrives at the dome-like building. The man who had been guiding them now trades places with one of the six guards standing at what appears to be the sole entrance into the dome. The new guard says simply, "Follow." and then turns and walks into the dark, tunnel-like opening. Yuri allows a bit of tension to leak into her muscles, as she becomes concerned about being lead into the large building and its unknown contents. One entrance means one exit. And with guards standing watch at that one exit, getting out might be difficult. The lack of light indicates that she may be at a disadvantage inside the building… Especially considering the >nature< of the Koumorite. They will likely have no problem navigating or fighting in the dark. Yuri does not like this set-up at all.
But she's not going to go down easily if this is a trap. She draws a scroll from within her hip-pouch the moment she is out of sight of the guards, inside the long entry passage, and sticks it to wall as she passes by. She hopes that no one on this team comments on this action. Other than this, she does not put her hands near her sword that lies strapped to her lower-back. Her speed is sufficient that she can draw it faster than most can even see… Hopefully.
Sadako frowns with some disappointment, with a quick nod of understanding to follow that up with to try and mollify the guide. Following Yuri inside, she falls back again just a bit and more towards Yoshihiro, but close enough to the middle of the group to avoid intruding on his personal space; the darkness inside, and the scroll she pointedly doesn't look at which Yuri puts up, have her slipping her arms around her stomach in a more protective gesture with her narrow hands bunching up inside the sleeves of her coat, "That's too bad." The chipper mood is a bit forced when she's blinking in hopes of hurrying up her eyes adjustment to the lack of light, "They seem fascinating, even from a distance, really…"
The flickers of movement, their sources unknown, are like occasional jabs to Yoshihiro's peripherals - irritating, but untouchable. A swift moistening of his lips is the only admission of his intense longing to just stop in his tracks and whip his head around so as to look for these shadowy movers to his heart's content. However, it would most likely be a futile effort and, more importantly, a failure of discipline. The young Kaguya simply raises a hand to brush an errant strand of that pale-white hair from his eyes and walks on.
Upon entering the blanketing darkness of the dome's interior, Yoshihiro grimaces slightly before cutting off the facial expression as he is hit with an abrupt realization. Those peculiar eyes are most likely attuned to the absence of light - even expressions or movements that he would normally assume are invisible to others in the darkness could be viewable by these Koumorite. Instead, he inhales and exhales softly, willing his eyes to attempt to become more accustomed to the darkness even as they keep moving deeper. Even so, he seems a little more relaxed. If these Koumorite did not wish them here, they would have turned them back at the gate. There is little to be gained in inviting emissaries of the powerful Hidden Village of the Mist into one's stronghold, only to murder them and risk the Mizukage's wrath. Or so he /hopes/.
If he has noticed Yuri's placement of the scroll, he gives no sign it.
Approaching the front of the dome, Yuuka lifts her dark blue green eyes up at it for a silent moment or so before shifting her gaze to the six guards, lifting a thin, pale brow at them before they are led inside by another guard. As they step inside, the Kaguya kunoichi lightly rubs her fingertips together at her side, hidden beneath the enveloping sleeves of her kimono. The bulge is subtle beneath the skin of her fingers, but it doesn't even take a moment for bone to emerge, the white of the very tip of her index finger parting through the sliver of flesh before falling away and dropping to the floor behind them. The darkness falls over the team as they walk into the building, the footsteps of the others soft around her as Yuuka firms her jaw, another unnoticable fleck of bone falling from her fingertips. Yuri's scroll doesn't go unnoticed, but go uncommented as they pass by it.
Once all four ninja are inside the dome, a wicker door is slid into place over the entrance, though not locked or barricaded or similarly. It should hopefully be easy to open for anyone who cares to try. However, the darkness cloaks their surroundings almost completely now. Quiet, high-pitched sounds of chittering, like rodents, or something similar, is prevalent in the blackness. Actual spoken words are absent.
Yuri did her best to follow their guide, but she can no longer see him and sensing by other means is more difficult. However, a tiny spark of light ignites a dozen feet away, and this soon grows into the flame of a single candle. Their guide stands beside the candle, presumably the one who lit it to begin with. He backs away from the table the candle rests upon and stands with his hands pressed together in front of his chest. Yuri looks around carefully at what minimal details of the dome's interior are revealed. The ground is primarily moist dirt and grass. There appear to be some insects on the floor — a lot of them, really — but they are not so numerous that they cannot be avoided.
The guide indicates that the ninja should join him by the table. Yuri allows a relieved smile to appear on her face, demonstrating the concern for being in darkness that is no doubt expected of her… She is just a 'normal human' after all. The guide says, "You may address the elders now." Yuri responds with a nod and asks aloud for whomever else may be in the dome to hear, "May I retrieve the message from the Mizukage? I was to deliver it to the elders of the Koumorite Clan directly. All that I know of to offer verbally is that this team and myself have been assigned to assist in resolving any problems that your Clan is having as a sign of good will, while you consider the Mizukage's message itself."
Yuri glances at Sadako and says, "We have a healer with us as well as capable combatants in the event that medical aid or battle is among your Clan's needs." She then looks out into the darkness, trying to pick out the details of who she may be addressing. When the answer comes, it is from an unexpected direction.
"We shall accept your aid while we consider your Kage's message," a high-pitched voice responds slowly from high above. The elders are up near the ceiling, apparently! Yuri looks upwards carefully. Now she can see them… Pale circles of reflective red in pairs — the eyes of each elder, watching them.
Sadako slows down almost to a creep to avoid losing too much of a 'feel' for where the rest of her team is currently, coming to a stop entirely once one foot nudges up against a creepy-crawly on the floor. She breathes in, stiff with relief when a candle is lit, moving ahead towards the table and circle of light with shuffling, almost dragging steps - lifting her feet has become a great hazard in case this is one of those 'eat what you kill' kind of places. She had her fill of bugs during field training, thank you, "Ah. Of very modest ability, but I'm happy to do what I… can." Her attention slowly tracks up to the ceiling, ending with a myopic blink behind her glasses and one hand uncurling to reach up and offer a short but respectful salute off her forehead, "Hmmn."
Even the ignition of such a tiny flame as the candle atop the table is enough to cause Yoshihiro to blink rapidly and briefly turn his face away. From light into darkness, back to light… the rapid changes in visual circumstances leaves the shinobi feeling out of his element, especially when faced with such a… /creepy/ situation as this one! As Yuri extends the Mizukage and, by extension, Kirigakure's offer of aid, Yoshihiro manages to come to grips with the dim half-light they now find themselves in. This allows him to look up when the elders respond and even the customarily well-disciplined Kaguya can't help but inhale sharply at the sight of those glaringly red eyes, peering at them from the ceiling.
"What sort of aid do you require?" says Yoshihiro, calling up softly to the elders even as he hastily begins to count how many there could be.
Although the darkness completely falls over her, Yuuka turns her covered head and narrows her gaze, feeling her surroundings as the speckled fragments of bone resonate to her. Before the others even noticed the elders up above them, she turns her head upwards, seeing the red glow of eyes. The corner of her lips tugs faintly with some mild amusement. At least they knew how to make an impression. Yuuka lightly rubs her fingers together again as she subtly shifts her weight, silently standing beside Yoshihiro as he looks up with her to then inhale sharply.
The guide steps forward to accept the scroll-case from Yuri. She drags her eyes down from the ceiling and focuses on the man for a moment… And then hands over the case without (much) hesitation. He then retreats with it into the darkness, presumably to hand it over to someone. Except that, a moment after he is no longer visible, the sound of large, leathery wings flapping is heard, along with a brief rush of air that sweeps over the four ninja.
Yuri looks back up to the elders and awaits their answer. A different elder's voice, sounding even more high-pitched than the others and definitely female, calls out, "My daughter has received an injury. She is not recovering as swiftly as desired. In addition to any others that might require your aid, I would ask that you attend to my daughter. There are others who can direct you to her." The other elder who spoke initially joins in to say, "There is evidence that one or more individuals have been pilfering valuable ancestral treasures from our caves. We would have the thieves identified and the treasures returned. If you can accomplish this, you will have the Koumorite Clan's gratitude."
Yuri looks at the others briefly, and then looks back up to the elders as she smiles and bows. She somehow doubts that they care about the view of her chest afforded by either the bowing or their angle up on the ceiling. They seem somehow… Not fully human. She is not of their kind, and thus she is not seen as attractive or a potential friend or… Anything other than an outsider. And she, Yuuka, Sadoka, and Yoshihiro are supposed to change this attitude all on their own?
"We will be happy to assist in these matters, honored elders," she answers. They certainly have their work cut out for them.
Sadako's already strained smile breaks, with her chewing at the corner of one lip while her hands retreat into her sleeves again. It's more thoughtful than worried, even with whole new anatomical structures seeming highly likely. Her eyes still want to go back to where the guard turned guide turned message delivery was sitting a moment ago with morbid curiosity, "Of course!" Her smile returns as she takes a drifting step closer to Yuri with her voice dropping to a quiet murmur; mostly as a formality rather than a belief it'd make her inaudible to the elders, even if they are high up above, "If I'm still tending to the wounded and can't help find the missing artifacts, would you be able to describe them to me later? Please?"
Well they certainly aren't shy about asking. Of course, these thoughts don't escape past the confines of Yoshihiro's lips, though they do provoke a slight smile. The expression is swiftly wiped off his face as he considers the possibility that the elders, with their assumed ability to see more clearly in the dark, might not necessarily appreciate that particular reaction to their just-proposed request for aid regarding an ill kinswoman and stolen treasures. Instead, Yoshihiro lowers his head and cranks his neck from side to side, easing up the muscles that have tensed from having stared up at the ceiling for the past few moments (and with such trepidation, too!). Now that the elders' requests are on the table, Yoshihiro refrains from speaking and fixes his gaze on Yuri, awaiting her decision as to what task to tackle first and in what manner.
Yuuka watches the elders above them in silence, lifting a thin brow just slightly as she hears their 'requests'. Doesn't sound too difficult. She lowers her deep blue green eyes as she glances to the others, to Yuri, wondering what their thoughts on the matter were. The Kaguya kunoichi doesn't seem surprised as Yuri accepts the requests, the corner of her soft lips tugging with a slight smile. At least this is going to be entertaining. Blinking slowly, Yuuka murmurs, "Should we get on that then?"
Yuri nods to Sadoka at the quiet request as she straightens up. "Of course I will," she responds in a slightly amused tone. "I will make sure to remember anything I see that might prove interesting to study. You just do your best to get the elder's daughter up and healthy again." Then she looks up at the elders and says, "If we have your leave, we can begin at once." The elders continue staring down at them unblinkingly and silently for several seconds, until their guide re-emerges from the darkness. He says, "The elders grant you permission to depart." He then snuffs out the candle flame with his thumb and index-finger. The darkness reclaims them, but it is brief this time. The wicker door is swung open by another guard, who stands at the entrance and waits for the visitors to reach him. This provides enough light from outdoors to leave the building.
Yuri bows once more to the unseen elders, and then leads the way outside. "I think that went fairly well—" she starts, but pauses as a hand descends on her left shoulder. She lets the hand touch her and calmly turns her head to see its owner. The guard that guided them within the dome stands there with the scroll she had planted in his other hand. "You dropped this," he says simply. Yuri smiles and says, "Oh, thank you! I didn't even realize! It's always getting stuck to things. The adhesive is a bit cheap, and doesn't dry quickly like wax does." She accepts the scroll back, as the slit-eyed guard does not say anything further, and just backs away to rejoin the others.
Yuri puts the scroll away and turns to her team. "It looks like we'll be staying the night. Possibly longer. We can do at least a cursory examination of the site of the thefts, but we should probably wait until we know more before trying to catch anyone." She looks towards the setting sun. "Diplomatic missions… Not exactly my specialty, but if we must, we must."
As the party departs the darkness of the domed structure and re-enters the light-filled world outdoors, Yoshihiro breathes a small sigh of relief, a sign of some of his tension at being in such an odd new locale easing away. "I'll see if there are any torch or lantern sellers around this town. If we're going to be wandering around caves, lying in wait for thieves, it would do us some good to not run out of light," he says, one hand casually rubbing his other arm as he considers the tasks before them. "We should ask them if there are any rules or particular policies regarding these caves we should be aware of. I have no desire to offend them by mistake while stuck in the darkness of one of those caves."
Sadako's smile widens further as she nods, and steps back as well. She tucks her hands into the sides of her belt but pauses there as the light goes out all of a sudden, the door opens, and it's apparently okay to go outside again. The village suddenly seems so much cheerier compared to conferring with the elders, "Ah. Well, hopefully it won't be too exotic; I've never really had a chance to come out this far before and look at the plant life…" She seems to be starting to talk to herself while continuing her earlier interrupted action, hauling her belt around her waist so she can access the fannypack and start digging through it, though with a brief glance up at Yuuka, "They did say injury, yes, and not some form of sickness?"
Upon leaving through the hall, Yuuka turns her covered head slightly as she glances to Yuri, "Knowing more details would be preferable." she murmurs lightly in reply as she keeps up the pace with the others. The open air couldn't come soon enough as her shoulders relax subtly, taking in a slightly deeper breath. Yuuka glances at Yoshihiro out of the corner of her blue green eyes, pondering quietly for a moment, "Hm, its very possible there might be holy land, or even certain customs or rituals we must adhere to."