Date: December 29, 2016
Goh and Mushi are approached by members of a mysterious organization.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"The Chronos Project - Part 1"
As soon as Mushi came to Kiri she set up a small stand. The wares were simple: spices and seasonings for food. There were pots of everything from salt to saffron. Much of it would go well with the seafood being sold on the dock. It was sold by weight, and within half a day most of them were gone. She didn't fight with the other merchants. In fact, a food fish stands set up near her to pick up some of the customers. Mushi wasn't exactly demanding with the pricing, but she still raked in a decent profit. And when Goh came by she says, "Enough to let us stay in Kiri while we're here. Are you recovering from the ship travel?" She's not wearing her usual outfit. Instead she's wearing a long blue robe tied with a sash around her waist. More traditional to Kiri standards.
It's a good thing Mushi had set up the stand early, because Goh was completely wiped out from the travel across the sea. While Mushi had methods to help with his seasickness, eventually, right at the end, it won out. Meaning that he spent the last half an hour hauling his guts up over the side of the boat, and the whole night and morning recovering in bed. Even now, despite being out and about, he looks pale. His usual zest for life is void, replaced by a gruesome looking figure. Heck, he'd look good if it were Halloween!
"Thanks for setting up." He groggily gets out, sitting down on the ground roughly behind the stand. His head goes to his hands, where he sort of holds it there. "How're you going business wise? No food fights or anything?" The sights in Iwagakure were many. But none of them topped the marvel which was vendor fighting. It was epic!
Wearily, with blurry eyes he looks up at his partner, squinting. "You look nice. I like that colour on you."
"Funny you should mention those food fights," Mushi says with a smirk. "At the end of that squabble no one wanted to buy from the traveling merchants. It'd be a month before they could set up in such a crowded place. So I offered to pay up front in bulk, some of their merchandise. I got it at a very reduced price and now I'm selling it here for more."
When he compliments her clothes, she smiles shyly. "Really? Some of the customers thought so too. I guess I look more like a local than a traveler. I thought I should try to fit in. But some people actually recognized me, a few shinobi. They thought it was strange I was doing this." She sweeps her hand to include the remaining spices. Then she'd lay a hand on Goh's stomach and he'd feel a cold, medicinal effect seeping into his stomach.
"Oooooh?" Goh remarks with a sly smile. "That's very cunning of you. Very savvy. It looks like you're settling into this life really well after all, huh?" The man beams, before flicking a thumb up. "Absolutely you do. And our customers are always super smart." Well, usually. "They know what's up. They know a beautiful lady when they see it."
As the healing technique seeps into his skin, the travelling pickler does begin to feel some relief. The nausea still lingered, but he at least didn't look dizzy. So bad is his infliction it will take at least a bit of time for him to come around. "Thanks. I'm feeling loads better already."
Beaming up from his seated position on the ground, Goh's head tilts a little as two figures approach. They are covered from head to toe in a bright white cloak, rimmed along the edges with a red outline. With their faces covered in shadow, one of them steps forth. "Excuse me," He starts. "We are looking for Akuu Goh and his partner Nikumari Mushi." These two were no joke. That much is clear just from their feel. The way they held themselves suggested experience. "Can you confirm that you two are these people?"
Goh groans out aloud, rubbing the back of his neck. "Eeeehhhh?"
"I can't keep healing you," Mushi says to Goh, something she's said repeated times in regard to his vehicle-sickness. "What you need to do is find some exercise that will help you toughen up for this. You exercise your legs for running, your arms for punching, and it's about time you went on a diet and training regimen for this!" She sits back and waits for more customers. But she keeps an eye on Goh until they're greeted.
Mushi watches the two men casually, as they approach. Maybe they're customers. Shinobi have bought from the stand too. When they ask their identity, Mushi closes her eyes in exasperation. When she opens them she smiles. "Good afternoon. It looks like you two aren't here to buy spices from the Pickler and the Bird. Can you kindly identify who you are before we answer your question?" Her tone is polite and inquiring.
"My diet is perfect." Goh grumps. "Sometimes you just can't fix natural weaknesses. I guess there are more medicines I can take though, huh?" Currently he seems unbothered by the ominous arrivals. But he's often unbothered by a lot of things.
Both of the new arrivals are tall, with one standing six foot even, the other standing a few inches higher. The shorter one appears to be doing the talking, and moves to take point as he pulls back his hood. He reveals the face of an older (in shinobi terms) figure. A man in his late twenties. There isn't a single hair on his head, with everything waxed or shaved. A large scar runs across his right eye, with only his left appearing to be working. "Very well." He answers politely.
"My name is Akira. This person behind me is Naoko. We represent an organization that have been watching you two for a long time. We are most interested in your qualities." His head tips. "If you would permit me, I would like to offer you a business transaction. You are both merchants, yes? You can likely appreciate this bargain." The man smiles.
Mushi exchanges a look with Goh when it's mentioned they've been followed for quite some time. She hadn't sensed anything like that. She starts to screw the lids back on the jars as they talk. This isn't about spices. After she's done with that she gives the man a warm smile. "You flatter us," she says. "I didn't know you were so interested in our wares. Right now we have a special on spices, candied fruit, and pickled vegetables."
She spreads her hands in offering. "But if that's not what you want, we'll have to decline. You see, we don't invest in dangerous situations. And forgive my assumption, but you two reek of it." She takes out some paper and packages up a jar of cinnamon which she holds out to them. "If you leave right now, you can take this with our compliments." Wow. Cold.
Goh looks a bit worried when Mushi exchanges that look, before he finally stands up. He does so that he stands behind Mushi's shoulder, his frame much larger. It was their classic 'Form A' intimidation pose, used often to get people away. "You heard the lady." He confirms smoothly. "Get lost."
The response earns a smile from Akira, who holds his arms up to surrender any immediate ill will. "Hey now," He begins. "You haven't even heard our offer yet. I have been most civil and polite. The least you can do is hear me out. As a woman who practices in medicine, you will be most interested in this ideal, Mushi. You both detest War, correct? Battle? Dangerous situations, as you put it? Well. The organization I represent does as well. And they have an idea to stop it all." He pauses. "I'm sorry to push, but I've been given explicit directions to at least have you hear me out."
The pickler frowns. Negotiation was never his strong suit. Instead, he lifts a hand to place on Mushi's shoulder from behind her, giving it a firm squeeze. He will defer to whatever she judges is the best course of action.
When he brings up the fact she's a medic, Mushi looks even warier. The presence of a medic means there'll also be injuries, fighting, and possibly death. Why can't they just let her sell her spices? She sets the jar of cinnamon down. She doesn't smile or look at Goh when he moves to support her. But she'd said often enough she appreciated it. She keeps her gaze on the men, or the man who continues to insist they deliver the message.
She nods. "Yes we are Nikumari Mushi and Akuu Goh, but be careful where you throw that surname around. You're right you have been polite. You deserve to at least be heard out." She doesn't budge from where she stands though. Which is now right beside Goh.
Akira nods, clasping hands together. "Splendid." His cloak shuffles a bit in the sea breeze, as does the cloak of his partner. Still unmoving. Just standing there like some sort of statue. "The organization we represent is sick of constant battle. Clans being wiped out. Civilians and regular people getting killed as a result. The formation of the Villages were supposed to stop all this. But if anything, it has merely formalised disputes increased the size of battle fronts." Tucking arms behind his chest, he pauses to consider his next sentences.
Goh looks wary, his hand on Mushi's shoulder tightening. Where was Akira going with this?
"The solution is simple. We need a person who stands above all others. A benevolent figure to enforce the rules and laws. To rule with respect. Or fear." He breathes for a moment. "This person is called Chronos. And he is currently being constructed by some of the brightest minds the world has ever seen. But we need aid. Mushi, we need your medicinal and healing skills to help bridge the final gap. And Goh. We need your sturdy flesh, and your Akuu bloodline."
Goh's eyes nearly pop out of his head in surprise. "You want my /flesh/?"
"Merely a skin sample and some blood." Akira confirms, as if that makes it all better. "Your third eye will mix in very well with the other samples we have."
Mushi's face is so still it might as well be a mask. Afterwards she grabs her cloak, murmurs something about it being a bit chilly, and throws it around her robe. As she knots it she says, "I have been thinking about the original intention of the villages. To prevent war. It has failed in some ways. Shinobi still fight. They still war. Yet the deaths of normal people such as these villagers has gone down. It's no longer socially acceptable to slaughter civilians. And shinobi can now be hired to address things they would not have paid attention to before. Natural disasters. Starvation. Lack of education. It's not perfect. It needs work. And if you think the solution is simple…you're a simpleton."
She smiles to the two. "If you've been following us, perhaps you saw the trouble Goh underwent because of the blood he has carried. It'd bring your construct you call Chronos nothing but disaster. As for me, I may have left my medical center, but I still hold to neutrality during war. I won't involve myself. That's my response."
Akira sighs a smidgen at the response, his hands moving to unfasten the buttons on his cloak. "Mushi, I'm disappointed." He speaks lowly. As he unfastens his cloak, the taller man in Naoko does the same.
Goh's hand lifts from Mushi's shoulder and clenches, hanging by his side.
"The people I work for will be disappointed to hear your answer too. Make no mistake, you WILL be coming with us. Whether you like it or not." In that moment he discards his cloak with a flourish, throwing it to the side. His partner does the same. Lovely synchronisation! Underneath these cloaks, each of them wears tight black uniforms, with various shuriken and kunai knives sheathed and ready to use.
Goh smirks loudly, jetting a thumb to his chest. "You think you can take on the Two Titans? You guys are strong. I'd like your chances against Jounin-level ninja. But against /us/?" His hands drop. "You won't last five moves."
"Disappointed but not surprised, I hope," Mushi says. "And please don't address me so familiarly, Akira-san."
A few curious people have slowed to witness the fight. Mushi holds up a hand, "No trouble here, we're just talking," she says clearly. She listens to Goh and gives a light laugh at his assessment. Yes, they are formidable. She turns back to the two and her tone is dry. "Please. Let's say you can overpower us and take us. Kiri shinobi will be all over you in five seconds, and have you in a interrogation room torturing you for information in the next five seconds." In fact, allow me to shout out your plans right now." She raises a hand to cup to her mouth, but stops after taking a deep breath. "Or…not. Leave right now and I won't spill the beans on you. I don't think your superiors would be too pleased if you returned with a pursuit squad of rabid Mist shinobi."
The taller man seems willing to call Mushi's bluff, crouching into a stance that suggests he is about to engage. Goh does likewise, perhaps a bit defensively more than anything.
The words of Mushi however seem to strike Akira quite convincingly. Goh's threats held little sway. Perhaps these agents were stronger than they looked. But gathering the attention of Kirigakure officials would… complicate things. He raises a fist in an indication for his partner to stop, and like a machine, Naoko stands tall once more. "You're right." He declares. "I am in this to stop bloodshed. Not spill more guts on the street." His eyes narrow.
"We will see you soon, Goh and Mushi." And with that, both of them flicker from view, using their ninja speeds to bail out at great speeds.
The pickler breathes a sigh of relief, tension leaving his muscles. "What the heck is it with us?" He drones, lifting a hand to slap his forehead. "We attract the worst type of people."
Mushi glances over her shoulder. The dock is crowded. On one hand that could drag other people in. On the other hand that's more people to deliver the message if they shout. There's no Kiri shinobi in sight but there would be soon enough. This is a messy situation for them—but for the two unknown men as well. She turns to see if they'll drag it all down, and when Akira doesn't Mushi smiles and nods at him. Almost friendly. "We'll think about what you said," she says. "Till we meet again."
She turns to Goh and laughs. "I don't know. Well, I lied. I won't think about what they said. But it sure is easier having a pleasant chat rather than getting nailed in the back." She huffs and sits back at her stall. She's actually setting up again to sell, but her hands tremble a little. "Killing isn't the only way to solve something," she says. "It's the stupidest way. It's the last way of a million ways you should try. The only thing stupider than killing someone is killing /lots/ of people. War. War is mass stupidity. Why do people keep on trying to suck me into their bloody idiocy?" She sounds very pitying of herself.
"Mushi, we don't have to keep selling stuff." Goh sympathises with a smile, perhaps noting the tremble of her hand. They hadn't been through battle, but what they had been through was something quite intense.
"Do you believe them? That they wish to stop War by creating this weapon thing?" He asks, watching as the crowded people who were here to watch start to disband. "I mean, this 'Chronos' person? Do you think that it's possible to… I don't know. Create someone? To merge flesh into one being?" He nearly whispers that last part, not wishing to believe it was true. But it was way way wayyyyy beyond his level of understanding about how the human body worked.
The pickler paces a bit, feeling uneasy about it all. It was unnerving at the very least.
"Stop selling stuff and let the other spies see that they rattled us?" Mushi says. "The best defense we have right now is continuing to sell these spices as if nothing happened." Her hands have stopped shaking. She takes off her cloak. "I believe that they believe what they're saying," Mushi says. "I don't believe they can stop war. War isn't stopped. It's only delayed. Whether that means it's delayed for a year or a hundred years is still just that. The best humans can do is to find ways to prevent it for as long as possible. The greatest leaders are those who bring peace. Then they die."
She nods to Goh's question. "Oh of course. We've found ways to do it all the time. Look in a mile radius. Okumo have spiders crawling inside them. There's a clan who can turn to water. Not to mention the Uchuu Clan. I heard some were in the village. Twins who can merge. And look at me. I had a chakra beast living in me. If these things can be done, I'm certain with enough work and the right techniques, it could be achieved. But after…failures."
"Hm." Goh thinks, before smiling. "You're right. We should just keep going. I mean, we're fine. Everyone else shouldn't suffer and miss out on pickled vegetables and spices just because two losers came to us for a chat." Sitting back down on the ground behind the stand, the pickler leans back, propping himself up on a palm. He listens intently to the healer, nodding alongside of her. "I… I guess so." He hadn't really thought about it in that sort of detail before. "Sealing techniques and clan techniques are pretty crazy when you think about them, huh?" He chews on the inside of his cheek, before grinning.
"Well, they can't go far without us anyway, failures or not. I guess if they're serious, we'll see them eventually. Then we can kick their clock. Downside is we'll just have to be on guard for a bit. They didn't look too strong. But they did seem smart." Scratching his head with his free hand, his smile widens. "You're a good talker, aren't you? I wouldn't have even thought to bring up the Kirigakure forces like that. But that was really smooth."
Mushi grins at Goh. "It's one of my hidden talents," she says. "I don't usually have such an appreciative audience. Why do you think people haven't approached me many times urging me to join a side? They have. I just don't mention it. Whether it's the villains or the heroes, I walk away without divulging information." Her voice drops. "Even when they're missing nin."
For the next hour they go back to selling, and Mushi waxes off most of her spices. "But they could get far," Mushi says at one point, "with Nagamura Shuuren. He's a medical genius. But he's also dangerous, and I don't mean just as a Daimyou. They'd risk much approaching him. Yet here I am wandering around, a ready made medic." She huffs. "You know maybe we should join a village. We're unaffiliated. If we're ever in more danger than we can handle…"
"Not this again…" Goh drawls, wiping his face with his hand. "If the two of us are ever in more danger than we can handle, then a Village isn't going to be able to help that much." That's some ego! "Seriously. I mean, maybe some of the Kage could help personally, but it would just be a death sentence to a lot of the shinobi that get involved. And besides, we decided to stay as wanderers, remember? Not settling down." The pickler smirks. "I mean, I do feel a bit bad. Itami looked for houses for us and everything." He shrugs, before considering the options of Shuuren.
"They will try us again." Goh replies. "If you keep turning them down, then yeah … they might get desperate and try and go after someone else. But like you said, you're the easy get. The easy target with no alliances or ties. Except for me. Which is why they tried to rope me into this as well." Standing up after being seated for so long, he stretches out a bit.
"Wana get some lunch?"
"You know, maybe they were here for you more than me," Mushi says. "I noticed they were going in alphabetical order quite a lot. Goh first, Mushi second. And I'm 'Goh's partner.'" Is she jealous that the /bad guys/ were prioritizing him? Mushi shakes her head ruefully. "Who knows? Maybe you're right. It could be dangerous for the villages to get involved by us joining. Maybe this will all blow up in those guy's faces. Literally. Their manmade construct blowing up." She chuckles.
She hops to her feet at the offer of lunch. "Yeah, I'm starving," she says. "By the way it wasn't Shuuren. He'd consider it beneath him to let someone besides himself be ruler of the world." She gives a real laugh. "No, my money would be more on…well, I won't say who. Just that they don't necessarily need /me/. Want to get some noodles?" With that question, she'd start towards the village.