Date: March 15, 2014
Chitose is sent to plant some supplies on smugglers, so that they will take the blame if something should go wrong. She finds one of them has a a soft heart… but his kindness is more than balanced by the others' avarice and cruelty.
The Desert in the Land of Wind
Chitose may be a Chuunin, someone fit to lead a team of her own, but for now there is a mission sensitive enough to require her to be sent alone, with a minimal amount of people informed. Sunagakure's intelligence machine has become aware of a smuggling operation, and they've been called upon to eliminate it. However, before that, they've been deemed a convenient scapegoat for one last task: to bring a set of expertly forged faked documents to one of their operatives abroad. Crucial information is left out of them, to be added by the operative themselves, which is why the package also includes some equipment. All in all half a dozen scrolls and a small case, the size of a cigar box. The plan has the advantage that whether these are discovered during the plant, or en-route, or during the pickup, there is always plausible deniability for everyone involved. But the plant still must be performed, and Chitose has been selected for this task. How exactly she accomplishes it is up to her, but the task is clear: get the case somewhere into their shipment, and add a marker, a small but shiny pin, to make it recognizeable.
Chitose has been provided with the smugglers' typical routes, a winding path that takes them off the main roads and through the desert, before digging into a mess of crevasses and cliffs, often over treacherous and hard-to-find roads, until eventually they cross the border far from prying eyes. The girl's been left with the choice of the execution of her task, but of course if the smugglers know they've got stowaway gear on board, it won't get to its destination.
Taking up the path she was given, Chitose chose to move to the spot where she knows the smugglers have been moving and tries to move along it to try to spot them from afar before reaching them. She looks around as she moves the trails, she doesn't even disguise herself. SHe just removed her headband. After all, wihtout it, and with a pack on her person, she looks like a typical desert traveler. Her eyes going this way and that as she moves. She hmms as she moves along the edges of these routes, pulling up a pack of water and drinking it down before putting them thing to her hip.
It's a rather long walk, away from normal travelling routes, and Chitose finds herself in the middle of the desert when, among the barchans ahead of her, she sees a small group of people: a wagon covered with cloth, and several figures dressed in heavy desert garb, protecting them from the sand and the sun's heavy glare. They seem to be fitting the description Chitose has of them. From the distance at which she notices them, she can't make out if they, too, have noticed the lone figure in the sand.
Looking at the group ahead, Chitose narrows her eyes as she spots them and then starts to walk toward them. She pulls out her bag to take another drink of water as she walks toward the group. She takes a breath as she approaches and hmms before finally she looks toward the area around peering at the terrain before she just takes the direct approach, walking up with her pack on and then squinting as she approaches, raising a hand in greeting as she approaches.
The group notice Chitose as she approach, and she spots a bit of conferring going on among them right after she's spotted. When she catches up closely enough to greet them, they greet her as well, waving back and calling out greetings. On closer inspection, several of the men have curved blades, suited for slicing. They are most likely the guards. One man in exactly the same cloth lacks a sword, but Chitose's sharp Shnobi eye discern details: the shawl around his face, while similar to that of the others, is of finer cloth. The shirt beneath the robe, while barely visible, Chitose can recognize as of finer work. This man is the wealthiest here, likely the leader. And then there's one more unusual individual, a man with thick leather gloves despite the heat, and some kind of nets and snares on his waist. He, too, is unarmed.
"Greetings." Chitose calls out and then nods her head, "I saw you from afar and I thought perhaps you might have water." She states, "There was an incident with one of the desert coyotes on my way out and I lost have my water." She states, "I have things for trade if you are up for it but I understand if you have none to spare." She states with a movement to shift her pack around slowly and pats it lightly, "It isn't much but there is some food, some custom art, a few scrolls and a special piece…" She nods, "…it is meant for a particular client of my father's but if it means me not going thirsty, I'm sure he'll understand." She shrugs, "Any takers?"
The men look at each other, then at the young girl in front of them, stuck out of the desert with no water. "Well, I'd like to see that piece, the-" one of the armed men begns, but the one with the heavy gloves muscles right past him, throwing him a brief scowl. On close inspection, it is clear even from just his eyes, the only skin visible, that this man is likely a native of the desert: his face has been tanned by the wind and the sun of the Land of Wind. He grabs a drinking bottle from his belt and hands it to Chitose. "Where are you headed?" His voice is concerned.
Taking the bottle with a blink, she looks at him with all the skepticism that is normal for a desert dweller. Typically one doesn't give something for nothing. She takes it and then states, "I am supposed to be heading to Kirigakure by way of Fuuma Alley." SHe nods her head, "I got two deliveries to make, though since I've gone, a hawk dropped me a message stating that one of my deliveries is complete out of the question." She nods her head and then shrugs, "It's one of the reasons I was willing to give up some of my delivery for water, honestly." She nods her head, looking at the bottle carefully and then up at him, "And you are jus giving me water?"
The glove-clad man seems almost insulted. He answers in a tone as if his response should have been obvious. "Can't leave a girl to die out in the desert, can I?" The same armed companion speaks up again, "Didn't have to, but she did offer a fair trade." The glove-wearing one looks back. "Shuze, shut your trap." Then, the man who tried to fit in but is slightly too richly dressed joins in. His tone is even, but berating. Chitose might hear a tone like that from Kuoroke. "Keeper, we're not a charity here, and-" The 'keeper' begins saying something, but then stops himself, and the apparent leader continues. "-and if you want to give away water, that's fine, but the rest of us -will- be taking a pay for our water. We need it to keep us alive, after all." The Keeper stays quiet for a few seconds, obviously collecting himself and silencing his temper. "You don't. I always make sure to bring more than necessary. You're just not keeping track of that, 'cause that's my job. And I say we can-" "The water is paid for with my money, out of their pay." Suddenly, the guards begin murmuring in protest. "Yes. Welcome to the desert, we don't take chances if we can avoid them. But handing an innocent child over to the sun and sand to kill her, slowly and painfully?" He shakes his head, and most of the guards seems shamed by this. The leader's eyes, however, remain calculating.
A look between the men speaking and Chitose holds up her hands, "Hey…umm, if I'm going to be causing too much trouble here, I can just leave the water and hope for the best." She nods her head, "I'm not trying to be a detriment here to your group or cause infighting, I was just hoping to get water." She nods, "I am willing to pay in trade but, like I said, I didn't show up to cause you all to fight amongst each other." She nods, "If you want trade, I have trade." She nods her head.
A battle of will and principle is fought between the keeper and the leader in silence as they stare at each other for a few seconds. "You won't do this." The keeper eventually says. "She's a little girl in the middle of the desert and you're trying to turn a profit? What kind-" He sighs, without continuing. "You -know- what kind." The response is. "And yes, I will. As for you, next time you decide to waste my money, you'll talk to me, first and I will make the decisio-" "Won't be a next time." the desert-dweller quietly says, backing away and letting their leader take the word. "We'll take your trade. Let's see what it is you can give us in exchange." He seems to ignore the fact that his Keeper is staring into his back with eyes smoldering like coals… as he, in turn, ignores the fact most of the guards' wraps conceal either smiles about the leader's victory or angry glances in his own direction.
Having planned out more than just a few things, she drops her pack down and pulls out those unique wooden bowls her mother likes to use, opening them up to show the broth inside that is known for its ability to survive a great deal of time due to its preservatives, "Just heat these up for a good meal." She points out before offering up several pieces of art, including that case and the scrolls just sit in the bag as she nods, "I believe something here may spark your interest." SHe nods her head, "I imagine." SHe then shrugs, "The scrolls." She opens one up and looks at it before shrugging and then pulling out the scrolls and opening one up to look at it, "Oh, apparently I'm carrying the mail now, too." She laughs and then shrugs before putting away, "Anyway."
The leader looks at the offered payment with varying interest. The art causes most of his interest. He picks up one piece and chucks it towards one of his men, barely looking. "Real?" "Hard to say." "Sell?" "Probably." "How much?" "Eighty-five." "Alright." He looks turns to Chitose again. "Tell you what, we'll take your bag off you," behind him, the 'keeper' grunts in protest, but it's clear he has no power here to help the poor girl. "Quiet. You can keep the mail, I suppose. We've no use for it, and there's no use in keeping it from winding up in the right hands -eventually-. Speaking of, how are you going to explain the disappearance of your property? And how much water -will- you need?"
A blink and she stares at the man in protest, "Everything?!" She stares and then swallows before sighing, "That's…that's…" She shakes her head, "I guess I came to you…" She growls and then crosses her arms, "Well, if you are taking the whole bag you might as well take it all and I might as well turn around and head back." She then licks her lips, "In which case I'd need at least 2 gallons to make the journey." She then licks her lips and scratches her head, "As for explanation?" She hurrms and then shakes her head, "If you really are going ot take it all, only two options. Either I was attacked by an animal and had to break and run or I was robbed." She then eyes the leader, "It feels like the latter."
"You're always welcome to move on." The man answers, coldly. "If we were robbing you, you'd get no water and it wouldn't be optional. In fact, we may have to back out of the deal anyway because if your payment is offered to us as payment then becomes marked as stolen, it's worthless to us. You're in the middle of nowhere, of course water is valuable. It's a matter of survival: we will be risking our own lives if we give you the-" "Oh shut it." the Keeper has run out of patience now. "How- what kind of a man -are- you, anyway? I mean, sure, business is business but making money off a girl's- off this? That's monstrous." He turns to the girl. "Give us what you think you can afford to give." Then again to his leader. "Make an estimate for the rest. -I-'ll pay you half again as much, which means you'll probably be getting twice what it's actually worth." The leader looks at his Keeper for a long while, then, slowly, nods. From up close, Chitose can see he's grinning, satisfied with the result.
A sigh and then Chitose nods, "I'll just…say it was lost in the desert." She smirks, leaning toward a frown before nodding to the agreement and then makes an estimate. She offers it all over and then accepts whatever water they give in trade. She nods her head and then sighs, "Well, pleasent journey to you all then." She nods her head as she takes what is offered and then swallows softly as she looks like she's not extremely happy with the arrangement. That leader sure took advantage of her.
Again, the leader smirks, before turning to his Keeper. "Well, go on, then." The keeper glares at him but doesn't move. He needs a little more encouragement. "You're the one who just had to be altruistic, let's see how altruistic you really are." The Keeper mutters something in a local dialect about the leader's lineage, then shrugs off his backpack and offers Chitose three large bottle of water he'd been carrying without a word. "Get home safe." he says, shooting the leader another foul glance. He shoulder the now nearly empty pack again and moves to the head of the caravan under thunderous laughter of the men who were, until recently, his companions.
A smile at the Keeper and Chitose nods, "Thanks." She then takes the water and ties it together with a rope at her hip and then lugs it up on to her back with an oof. She then starts off and sighs as she left the pack with them, tied up. SHe takes only a moment to look back before turning and starting back toward Sunagakure with nary a smile on her face…that is till she gets over a dune and out sight in time to snicker lightly to herself.
The package arrives safely, but with a considerable delay, from the receiver's next report, with most of the group unusually dehydrated. It seems this 'keeper', this guide, had his revenge. Since he was the one with the least water, however, he was the one in the worst condition… and for some reason, missing three fingers on his left hand. The documents allowed Sunagakure's foreign operative to successfully execute his next assignment, while less than a week later he used the same group as scapegoats for a mishap, landing each every one of them in prison and sending a ripple through the smuggling network, allowing it to be wrapped up with minimal effort from Sunagakure itself.