Keiji, Asao, Kazeodori
Date: July 7, 2012
A sudden earthquake calls several shinobi into the desert to help with distributing supplies. But on the way, the team encounters several bandits, and one Genin questions his ability to do what he is trained for
"The Question of Bandits"
Desert Cliffs [Land of Wind]
The sweltering heat during the day reflects off the cliff walls that rise up here. At night the towering buttes appear to be even taller than they normally are — cold, remote, and perhaps even a bit alien. They are massive, naturally-formed walls of sandstone that can serve as a point of reference for those seeking Sunagakure — to the south — or simply desiring a land mark to navigate by. Further north lies open desert, inhospitable and bereft of any towns or other establishments other than perhaps a few nomad camps. South lies the desert sands surrounding the gates of the Hidden Sand Village. East lies lots and lots of sand.
East - (E) [Burning Sands - Eastern Desert]
South - (S) [Desert Near Sunagakure]
North - (N) [Open Desert - Northern Desert]
Reports have come in of an earthquake on the eastern side of the Wind Nation. The village hidden in the Sand sent off an emergency force comprised of medics right away to assess the damages. Unfortunately they had been short sited in their provisions. Word recieved this morning had asked for a list of materials to be transported out to the region. A summons would be sent to the three shinobi selected to guard the convoy.
Keiji was up bright and early this morning. He was taking inventory of boxes of cargo on the back of a wagon. He held a manifest in his hand and was checking boxes off one at a time. "That seems to be the last of it." the boy stated before he began securing the cargo. He was obviously waiting for the rest of his team to arrive. The mission was not much, but it was something.
Early mornings - for the most part - were not something that Kazeodori did especially well. He was often awoken early - be it for training, or shopping, or to help his father in some way - but the consistency of early rises did not nothing to squelch the prepubescent urge to sleep long, and to sleep hard. For a mission, however, Kazeodori often found himself unable to sleep. If there was but a single thing which made him feel like a real shinobi, it was a mission. Thus, the Genin was as punctual as he remembered to be, an unusual feat for a youth so entwined with carelessness. The boy's body was wrapped in robes, a hood pulled over his head, and a scarf curled around his face. Even though winter in Sunagakure was nothing like winters in lands which were not deserts, the boy's lithe figure kept him cold much too easily. Upon seeing Keiji, the youth raises a gloved hand.
Asao showed up a bit after Kaze did. He didn't seem to even notice the cold at all, instead his nose was in the maintenance manual for steam engines, the abridged edition. The consistant ticking that always showed Tokkan to be around was a dull sound from within his bag as he walked along steadily, until he got to the caravan. Looking up finally, a nod was given to Kaze and Keiji before Asao would start looking over the caravan itself. That analysis was going on about how best to defend what they had with what they got.
Now that the team had arrived, Keiji nodded towards each member. "Good to see you both. Now everyone up on the wagon. This is a slight over kill for a simple supply run, but if bandits attack, they could easily sell these goods for a high price on the black market." Despite the destruction of the underground capital in San Sara Duruta, the market was still very active in Sunagakure.
After a moment, Keiji hops up on the wagon and grabs the reins. "There are a few questions I want to go over with you before we get too far from the village." he then waits to see how they respond and react. This was not his first mission in charge, but it was the first mission he was incharge of without an overseer.
Kazeodori draws his clothes tighter about himself, but pulls the scarf down from his mouth. He leaps onto the back of the wagon, positioning himself behind Keiji, on one of the cargo boxes. He tucks his legs beneath himself, and leans forward, nearly touching Keiji's ear with his lips.
"Yeah, what's up?"
Kazeodori's cool demeanor certainly belies his anxiousness, the allure of bandits and another desert fight tugging on his chakra. Thankfully, the youth is imploring his chakra to keep his behind firmly rooted to the box upon which he is sitting, that even if the road get a bit bumpy, the young man won't be going anywhere (unless, of course, the box falls off the wagon). As of yet, the young Genin has not offered Asao a greeting, nor even a cursory look, but - then again - nor has he sneered and spit at him.
Asao put away the book into his back pack. A nod given in answer to the order by Keiji had him smoothly hop up to on top of the wagon. Once they were heading off with the caravan, he'd kneel by the other two. A nod was given towards Keiji once again. "Alright. What's the questions?" Tokkan would give that surge of ticking, an inquery by the puppet maybe? Either way, Asao was scanning the horizions, already alert for any potential hostilities as the mission was on, even if they were still in sight of Suna.
Keiji snapped the reigns to start the horses. They were now moving. "Have either of you ever killed before? The reason I ask, is because taking a life effects people differently. Some have issues doing such. Others have no issue with it. But if you are staring down a rabid wolf, one moments hesitation could cost you. So?" He then glanced back towards Kazeodori first. He expected the answer to be a no. Most genin in the village seemed to be pacifists.
Kazeodori points forward, his eyes following his finger as, upon Keiji looking back to ascertain an answer from the Genin, the boy exclaims:
"Watch the road!"
Whether or not he saw something, or whether or not there was really something there, the horses and wagon continue on just fine, even while Keiji awaits a response. Kazeodori's finger drops, then his hand, then his arm.
Doesn't Keiji remember the mission in the desert, helping the fancy-dressed man, when they all killed a handful of wolves? It seems a rhetorical question then, and Kazeodori is perplexed. Thus, raising an eyebrow, curling his neck to the side, he inquisitively asks:
Asao just gave a small nod in response to the question. "I have had to. Missions dictate the requirements. Someone tried to take something from a caravan I was guarding. We made sure they did not succeed." He motioned at his back with one hand, before shrugging his shoulders slightly. "It's not that complex. Simply an end to one person's function at the efforts of another." Cold and calculating? Maybe so, ultimately, there had to have been something in Asao's past to make him this way, right?
Keiji smiled and turned back towards the road. Yes he was there when Kaze used the power of his voice to take out the wolves. "There is a difference between killing something on purpose and by accident Kazeodori. There is also a slight difference in the death or a person to an animal. So, have you ever killed purposely and have you ever taken a person's life?"
Keiji then shook his head towards Asao. "I had figured you would have. Most do not make chuunin unless they are able to. I have little worry about you in combat."
Kazeodori leans back, away from Keiji, staring into the blankness of the desert as the caravan rumbles along through the sand. His eyes find no purchase in the distance, save for that which occupies his mind. His answer, as bleary as his eyes and just as far away, comes with a mute tone, though one pinched with doubt.
"I have killed things on purpose…"
The wagon bumps and sways, mediating the boy's response.
"…But I have never killed a man."
Upon stating his response, the Genin looks to Keiji, his eyes searching the back of the Chuunin's head, perhaps looking for a purpose, an answer to the grind the question has sought within the youth's soul.
To kill a man.
Certainly, such a thing is not uncommon amongst ninja, but how should one feel about it? Should they be cold and calculating like Asao, impervious, it would seem, to the weight of bearing death in one's hands; or like Keiji, who also seems unimpeded by the cost of removing life? Is one man's life worth more than another's? Could he, Kazeodori, in the moment, take the soul from another? What if he were but a boy, like the Genin himself? Or, more shockingly, would killing a man come too easy?
Asao nodded in response to Keiji. "Hai. Very true." He sat back a bit on that wagon to pull out his book and start reading again. It might look initially like he's not paying attention to his surroundings, however he was still keeping aware of the situation. Meanwhile, his pack would go empty as Tokkan was stashed somewhere within the caravan. This way, the puppet would be ready from a hidden location if they did actually get attacked. "If I may, Kazeodori-san, the first kill can be the hardest. Sometimes it will be after the fact.. Sometimes it can make you hesitate.. I relied on my training my first time, so would offer the same advice for you when that situation occurs, hai?"
Keiji does not offer any advice on the first kill. He was abnormal when it came to killing. He had no issue pulling the blade across the throat or poking a hole in a lung. It was afterwards when he contemplated the afterlife and the consequences of his actions. Either way that was not something he wanted to destract the young boy with just yet.
After a few hours of travel and a slight bit of talk the horse pulled wagon came up upon a man in the middle of the street. There were a few others standing at the side of the street, but behind him was a hand made road block. "HALT!" the man yelled at the wagon.
Whether or not Kazeodori had any opinions on the moral qualms (or lack thereof) one might have upon using a puppet to do their dirty work, he - smartly so - keeps his opinions to himself, and answers any other questions asked with politeness and little interest. The mission, it so seems, is turning out to be nothing more than a boring ride through the endless stretches of desert. In fact, there is nothing for miles and miles, until (from a distance is seen, and then closer is heard) a man raises his hand and exclaims for the wagon to halt. The horses are pulled up by Keiji, and the wagon jerks to a stop. Kazeodori remains seated, unsure of the purpose of the halting, but the muscles in his legs and torso clench, and he slips his hands into his robes as would a casual boy whose hands had become too cold to keep outside. I suppose the philosophy behind the death of a man takes a back seat to the body's desire to live, and the consequences from that desire, for inside his robes, Kazeodori firmly grasps several shurikens.
Asao looked up only after the wagon would halt. Book snapped shut and slid into his bag, he stared down at the man who halted their wagon. There was silence, no clicking. Hopping down, he approached the man, staring up at the guy who seemed in charge of the road block. "Why did you stop us? We have an important mission and we need through here. Now." Ok, so maybe not exactly his place to take the lead, however both Kaze and Keiji probably knew what Asao had done.
Keiji had halted the reigns. He knew better than to run the horses into the road block. His dark pupils glance between his genin and chuunin partners. He wanted to see how the two of them would deal with the situation so long as he did not intervene.
"There is a toll to be paid to use this road. You all look like you can afford the luxury rate. 15 Ryo." Then from behind some rocks, half a dozen bandits appear. "So what will it be?"
Keiji smirked beneath his mask. These bandits always recieved an A for effort, but so rarely got a passing grade on the actual manuever. "Alright Kazeodori. How do you deal with this situation?" the younger Chuunin asks. He then glances at Asao. "Lets let him be in charge for the moment."
Kazeodori is stark flabbergasted at the situation unfolding before him. Not even that Keiji is deciding to put him in charge that he might make a decision which would affect the whole group, but more so that the Chuunin is treating the encounter with a group of deadly bandits as one would a math problem on a student exam. Thus, it's easy to see (as Kazeodori's face relaxes into a grin after a moment's thought) why the Genin believes the entire situation to be a setup, probably orchestrated by Keiji with the help of Asao (for why else would the puppeteer suddenly become so bold?).
The boy leaps from the back of the wagon, releasing the shuriken he was holding but a moment ago, walking now as if he were ten-feet tall and made of iron. He approaches the lead bandit, and - consequently - Asao, who had been already standing before the man.
"Excuse me," he says, lacking nothing of arrogance, to the puppeteer. The Genin then focuses his attention upon the bandit, a sly grin still lifting the edge of his lips.
"15 Ryo, huh?"
Kazeodori looks back to Keiji in mock surprise, his attention then returning to the man. The Genin motions for the man to lean closer, while he himself lifts himself up upon his toes to whisper:
"He's got at least 30."
Kaze had requested Asao to treat him as an equal. Asao could do that.. but an equal wouldn't of done what Kaze just did. Blinking, Asao just stared at Kazeodori for a long moment before looking over to Keiji with a raised brow. "My guess is that Kazeodori-san thinks this is a setup, Shippodoku-san. Do we continue on this path?" Asao took a step back, away from both Kaze and the bandit, moving over to study the road block for a long moment. He was still close enough to provide support to the genin, but he was listening to their leader.
"30 huh? Get a load of this kid. He's on our side!" the bandit leader yells to the others. "Alright, how much does your buddy have? Then you kid?" The man asks. He points to Asao and then towards Kaze. He moves a hand back to grab his dagger, just incase the kid is pulling his leg. "You better not be messing with me either." he tells Kazeodori.
Keiji remains on the wagon. He has really yet to move. Finally after watching how Kazeodori handles the situation he turns towards Asao. "Both of you return to the wagon." his voice is dead serious. There is zero humor to be found in it. "We are carrying cargo of Sunagakure. I am usually not on this route, but I can assure you that you do not want to continue to hold us up. I am usually a bit more stealthy in my missions."
Kazeodori smiles at the bandit leader, nodding along with him.
"One minute. Let me get it."
The Genin takes a few steps back, makes sure the bandit leader isn't going to snatch him by the throat, and then - when far enough away - turns on his heel, and heads back towards the wagon. The Genin approaches Keiji, gives the bandit leader a thumbs up, and says, through gritted teeth and in the lightest of tones that his lips can afford:
"A shinobi's greatest weapon is deception."
Kazeodori lifts both of his eyebrows as he stares Keiji in the eye. Stares him in the eye. Dead in the eye. Both eyesbrows lifted. He then holds out a hand, as in expectation of money being placed in it. He gives the bandit leader another good smile, another nod of the head. Certainly, Asao can see from his place near the wagon, and certainly his analytical brain can appropriate the necessary pieces needed to complete this puzzle. If not, however - if neither Chuunin understand - then… well, who knows then. Kazeodori definitely does not have a Plan B on hold.
Asao watched as Kaze put on his play for the bandits. Sneaky, just dependant on if they bought it or not. The glare leveled on the bandit leader when pointed at was one completely devoid of anything, maybe a hint of the puppet showing through? Either way, Asao turned on heel and walked back to the wagon, that simple hop putting him up on top of the wagon once again to turn and look down at what was going on. He stayed quiet, simply watching and calculating. It was an interesting scene, the plateau between the shinobi and the bandits.
Keiji was pondering just what the boy was getting at. He reached into his vest and pulled out some kunai hidden by his hand and arm. He then lays them in the hand of the boy. "Next time, just take out the road block with your wind breath." the boy whispered. He was not too worried about the others hearing him.
The bandit leader nodded his head to the boy. "Go get our coins. Sunagakure Cargo, that should be worth quite a bit. By the way what was it you normally do?" he asked the younger Chuunin. His men all started to raise their weapons in preperation for the attack.
"We are shinobi."
Kazeodori flicks the kunai softly in the air, and with the precision of hand known to a boy who has practiced countless hours perfecting the grace of his movements, does the Genin command a giant breath of wind to expel from his mouth, the ferocity of the gale rushing the kunai forward with elemental intensity. Immediately upon conducting his assault, the youth leaps onto the back of the wagon, behind Keiji, several shurikens again firmly grasped within his gloves hands. A grin can't help but pluck at this lips as he watches the outcome of his plan unfold.
Asao would follow suit. Mostly by launching off of the top of the wagon at a set of shinobi off to the right of the wagon. Flying into them, that lightning would spark and flicker around Asao's form as he'd start laying into them. The surge of that lightning chakra would cause the henge to fade from around Tokkan, that clicking of a clock replacing it as the puppet started laying in to the foes. Asao himself, rolled out from under the wagon, standing up smoothly as he'd manipulate Tokkan's actions with those chakra strings.
Keiji had no intention of missing the fun either. Within a moment, he was out of the wagon and between two bandits, with a pincered finger in the throat of each. "Bandits never serve a real purpose. They steal from each other and feed upon the weak. To leave one alive is to ensure someone else suffers." the boy says as he pulls his own pincers from their throats. He then turns and forms some earth seals. After placing a hand on the ground two more bandits have their feet impaled by earth spikes. "Finish them."
"Shinobi? No way." the boss says sarcastically as the kunai hits him. "You think the likes of us couldnt handle you shinobi?" He then pulls the kunai from his arm and throws it back towards Kaze.
Kazeodori throws one of the shurikens he was holding at the kunai, knocking away the danger in a hard clang of steel. The boy's face is a bit irked at the sight of his own kunai being thrown back at him. It seems that his wind was not as powerful as he had thought. So be it.
The boy drops his shurikens onto the boxes of cargo laden upon the wagon. He lowers his haunches, and uses the deftness of his hands to form several seals. He then takes a tremendous breath, the swell inside his body making him seem larger than his actual self.
"Wind Release: Great Breakthrough!"
With a tremendous exhale, the youth blows forward a torrent of lashing, leveling air, wide enough to catch several of the bandits that may be lurking near their boss. Right at the concluding tail of the outburst, the Genin realizes his mistake, and inwardly curses for how it will appear outwardly. For, if his calculations are correct, he might've sort of accidentally mistakenly caught Keiji and Tokkan in the path of the blast.
Asao's hands flickered and twisted as Tokkan leveled the bandits about him. Those blades of the puppet came out and would quickly finish each one that the puppet came in contact with. As the wind started up, Tokkan got thrown off balance. Asao's eyes narrowed in concentration and with a few correcting alterations on those chakra strings, was able to get the puppet back on track. Tokkan would come flickering back to the wagon as it looked like the wind pretty much took care of the road block there as well.
As the wind began to blow, Keiji was blown to bits, little bits of rocks and sand. He then emerged behind the wagon. "Not bad, lets make sure there are none left. Then we will continue on with the mission." the young Chuunin then glanced over the cargo to make sure none of the packages were damaged or taken. Keiji himself then stepped onto the wagon.
The bandit leader and his bandit were all no match for the wind. Like their road block, most of them ended up being tossed at least fourty to fifty feet away. While it was unclear if any of them were living or not, they were at least for now out of commission.
Kazeodori nods, taking his seat again behind Keiji. His face is serious, his mood somber, but much in the same exaggerated way a kabuki mask might look. The Genin is not sure if he killed any of the bandits, and he is still not sure if he will be able to. Certainly, the road block has been destroyed, and the team is able to proceed onward with its cargo and mission. Will there be a need for death? What of justice? Of peace? The Genin, however, betrays not the distraction of his thoughts, as he simply remains seated, waiting for Keiji to once more pick up the reigns, and slap the horses onward. Yet how easily the others killed. How easily they struck down those before them. Were their powers not strong enough to detain the bandits? What if Kazeodori one day made the wrong choice: would he have no second chance? Would he be but a corpse collecting flies in the sand? Death is but the boy's sole preoccupation as the wagon shifts on, past the freshly slain.
Asao nodded in response to Keiji's order. None to be left would be carried out. As the wagon would start it's rattling past the chaos that was the road block, Tokkan would flicker out once again, Asao sitting up on top of the wagon watched as the puppet would tag each bandit body, dead or alive, in the throat with that poisoned blade. Once they were far enough away to have it not matter any further, Tokkan would return once again to it's hiding spot. Resolving the issue successfully, Asao studied Kaze for a long moment before pulling out his book to start reading again. Interesting, very interesting.
"Kaze, in general you can tell when bandits are out here because they have made one wrong decision. They shake when they hold their weapons. Their horses look famished. These men were professional scumbags. If left alive they become more violent because they had their ego taken down a notch. It simplest to waste little time and end them as quickly as possible unless they have information or are holding someone hostage. Otherwise the moment we pass, they will just rebuild the road block and charge more." Keiji nodded at Asao and continued to drive the horses.
Kazeodori would bump along as the horses drew the wagon further through the sand, silent, though attentive. His words certainly wouldn't find themselves, but his mind would not be able to overcome the disparity of Keiji's remarks. What if the bandits, with famished horses and shaking hands, were men who had no other choice? What if it was for their children that they chose to be here? What if their shaking hands held the fact that they were scared to be doing what they were doing? No answers would be found, no matter how deep the Genin would think. Instead, he would just lie back on the boxes, staring into the bright desert sky, unsure even more of his ability to take another man's life. Of his ability to be more than just a weapon.
"If it helps.. sometimes it's best to not think about it." Asao offered his last bit of advice, turning a page in his book. They managed to make the rest of the trip without incident, delivering those goods to the earthquake disaster relief zone as requested. Asao was as helpful as he could be with getting items delivered, working between Keiji and Kaze to get everything sorted out. They would be headed on their way back that night, to make Suna late.