Date: July 22, 2015
Taiki and Michiko, along with a team from Konoha, meet Uzumaki Tenken to learn more about their enemy, the Recluse.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"The Recluse Wars - Revealing the Truth"
Border town between Lightning and Fire
For the past few months, since that first joint venture between Kumo and Konoha against the Recluse, Taiki and Kaido had been slowly breaking down a prisoner. The prisoner was tough, and Taiki had to leave Kaido to it a few times, especially during the attack on Konoha and the corresponding counterattack by the hidden villages, but this man proved very hard to beat. Kaido was bound by restrictions from Taiki not to use lethal means of interrogation, so that slowed the process down. But the prisoner finally broke, and Taiki wasted no time in setting his own intelligence network on the trail.
Then, a few days ago, a secure message went to Michiko in Kumo while Taiki put together a team on his end. The message asked her to meet with him, a select team, and a guest in a town on the border between the Land of Fire and the Land of Lightning. Taiki would not tell his team what was going on until they were out of the village and on their way to that location. They would meet with one of Taiki's allies in his war against the Recluse who, upon receiving the information Kaido gleaned from the prisoner, discovered something else. They would meet him here, in this town on the border, where they would finally develop plans to bring this war to an end.
Kenta had no idea what the purpose of the journey is at the beginning and all of his guesses were off the mark, except for the nagging feeling that it might be something related to the Recluse. He had assumed that there would be a great deal of danger involve, with Taiki being the leader of the team, so he packed extra carefully when he made up the bunch of gear to bring. He's still not unconvinced that there -won't- be danger after learning the true purpose of their upcoming task.
The young man currently follows Taiki from behind and a little to the right. He keeps his arms loose at his side while he travels, so that he can reach for a pouch or pocket at a moment's notice. The thick cloak that he wrapped around himself and his pack flutters gently in the chilly winter air. What can be seen of his expression from under his cloak's hood is full of somberness. Kenta recalls the Recluse's love of traps, so he keeps an eye out for strange markings, seals and unnatural features.
At first Hige was merely intrigued by whatever it was Taiki had called them all together for. But as time passed and they traveled he started getting a bad feeling about it in general. He had a feeling it had to do with the Recluse. During the trip Hige would've taken up his normal spot with Konsho as rear guard, watching behind them to make sure no danger tried to sneak up on them. Other than that the pair would be silent as they tended to be at times such as these.
Michiko got the message as secure as it could be. She opened it curiously, recognizing, if barely, that the message was from Inuzuka Taiki. And then she had a few words with Yori so that the boy could take care of things before she was off, going to meet up with Taiki and his team. And whatever allies he decided to bring. The journey took a few days, but she made it, perhaps a bit tired and sore after the whole journey. It was fast-paced. But she took the day before the meeting to relax and recover, so now she was sitting outside a small restaurant, just relaxing while she looked around.
Eventually, her eyes spotted … Everyone. Hige, Taiki, and Kenta. "Taiki-san," she greets. "And Kenta-san." The girl moves to pat Konsho briefly. "And Hige-kun and Konsho-kun. It's still hard to believe you two are all responsible now," she teases the Inuzuka pair lightly before stepping back. "So, what are we discussing today?"
Taiki had gotten everyone a room, more actually a suite. Most times Taiki had to be very careful when leaving Konoha, which was one reason for his bringing people along. Of course, those he selected not only knew how to keep their mouths shut, but they also could be relied upon in a fight, since Taiki has gained a reputation as a danger magnet. When they arrived at the agreed-upon restaurant, Taiki nods his head and gives a grim smile to Michiko. Shinobu and Nozomi take positions on either side of the table, carefully watching for anyone too interested in their conversation. "Hello Michiko-san, how are you doing today?" he asks in greeting as he takes a seat. Hige and Kenta are offered seats of their own, though there seems to be one too many chairs here. "We're meeting someone else here, who apparently has news to share about a mutual… pain in our backsides."
"Michiko-san," Kenta greets the Kumo representative. He gives her a respectful bow before he moves towards his own seat. The young man's hood is pulled down to reveal hair that has gotten very messy from rubbing against the fabric throughout the journey. Brushing fingers through them don't really help much. Kenta keeps his cloak on after he lowers the hood, but he does shrug off his backpack to set it on the ground next to his chair, where it's still easily within reach. He's able to take his seat comfortably once that's off his back. Everything about the young man continues to speak of caution today. His cloak-hidden hands methodically check each of the many, many belt pouches and pockets of his modified Chuunin vest to make sure that everything's still in place.
Hige moves with the others to the restaurant, keeping his senses open for trouble. When they arrive and Hige spots Michiko he grins widely, stepping forward to give her a hug. Or try to at least. "Hey there Michi." He offers, Konsho seeming quite excited to see the Kumo nin as well. "Hi Michiko!" The now over four foot pup says excitedly. As people begin taking seats Hige follows suit while Konsho mimics the other ninken. Six eyes are better than four after all. Hige idly pets the pup as he glances to the empty chair, then back to Taiki, waiting in silence once more.
Michiko takes a seat, nodding to Taiki. "I'm doing well," she says, raising a brow when she hears another is joining. "I see… So it's about /them/." She says 'them' with enough force and anger that it's obvious she has the Recluse in mind. "Have you all been well, at least? Learn any new tricks?" she asks, making just a bit of small talk while they wait for this last person
Michiko also hugs Hige back.
Taiki's already grim smile answers Michikos anger by turning into a half snarl as he nods. Yes, it is about the Recluse. He longs for the day when they will no longer be around, when the people he cares about will no longer be threatened by this force of darkness, and prays that it will come soon. Speaking of prayers, his mouth turns now into a smirk as ye says, "Oh yeah, and I can't wait to give /them/ a taste of it."
"That day is almost here, Taiki-kun," an elderly voice replies to him out of no-where. Nozomi and Shinobu both look to the space behind the empty seat and sniff the air. Instead of tensing up, however, they relax and give a short, friendly-if-not-oddly-formal yip. An old man appears in that empty space as the yips fade. He looks…. practically ancient. At least 70 years old, if not older, with a worn expression on his face that seems part-tired and part-determined. Those that participated in Taiki's rescue would recognize the man, though he looks even worse now than he did then.
"Tenken-sensei," Taiki says after taking a sniff of his own to verify the man's identity. "Nice of you to join us." Looking around, he simply says, "In case you don't know this man, he's Uzumaki Tenken, my medical ninjutsu sensei."
Kenta has met Tenken once before and there's no chance that he would forget that face after the events of the occasion had been burned into his memory. Taiki's rescue from the torturous attentions of the Recluse is the very beginning of Kenta's hatred towards that group. Subsequent events simply dug a deeper and deeper hole for that emotion to fill.
When the old Uzumaki appears, Kenta instantly pops right back to his feet. He bows towards Tenken as deeply as he would to the highest ranking memories of Konoha's shinobu. "Tenken-sama. It's very nice to see you again. I hope that you made it here without much trouble," he says after he straightens back up. It's the most that Kenta had uttered at once since morning. He slowly lowers himself back down into his seat.
Hige tenses at the voice out of habit, eyeing the man carefully once he appears. Anyone who could so easily hide his scent made Hige no small amount antsy, for obvious reasons. As if the discussion about the Recluse wasn't bad enough by itself. When Taiki introduces him the teen relaxes some but he's still wary. Not exactly a bad trait. Again he falls into silence, as old habits are hard to break despite rank. It's more of an age thing at this point.
Michiko looks a bit surprised to see Tenken. She recognizes him after a moment, as she had assisted in Taiki's rescue and even helped heal the clan head. "Tenken-sama," Michiko greets with a respectful bow… Sort of. She does it as best she can while sitting down. "Medical Jutsu?" she echoes with a raised brow. "I suppose that explains why you use deals with your medic work, Taiki-san," Michiko comments with a small smile. Then she looks again to Tenken. "It's a pleasure to formally meet you."
Michiko may not have recognized the Recluse as an enemy, and she was only a Chuunin when she /did/ help rescue Taiki. But they attacked Kumo, and now they were, next to three particular escaped convicts, at the top of her kill list. "So… Now that we're all here…" she starts off. "What are we discussing today? This is obviously important to have so many strong shinobi here." She naturally assumes Tenken is strong considering he's lived to be a good age /and/ he's Taiki's Sensei. Also, she's seen him in action.
Taiki looks back to Kenta, nods, then says, "Relax" to both him and Hige. Taiki's used to this, since Tenken did it to him just about every time they met while he was a student. Yet another way to verify his identity. He then turns his attention toward Tenken. "It may be soon? As in what I sent you was useful?" Taiki asks with a leery kind of hope rising up in his voice.
Tenken sits down, slaps a tag on the table, then runs through a quick series of handseals. A chakra pulse spreads through the area before Tenken says another word. "That genjutsu will keep anyone else from eavesdropping on us," he starts before nodding to each person in turn. "The only person I don't recognize is him," he says, pointing to Hige. "But yes, your information allowed me to all but crack this case open, in a manner of speaking. I'll lay it all out for you, and then we can discuss what to do with it."
Taiki nods once and motions Hige to introduce himself so they can all find out what is going on.
Kenta looks between Taiki and Tenken with his brows furrowed. Something very important is going on here (obviously), but he still doesn't have all the facts yet. The young man's all ears for the discussion, but he doesn't interject yet. He's also all eyes, once Tenken places an unknown tag on the table. His first impulse, since he's already on edge, is to scan the symbols to make sure that it's not dangerous. As a highly sophisticated Uzumaki design, it's probably too complex for him to read entirely, even with all the progress that he's man in the last year. Kenta's second impulse is to memorize what's on it and try to replicate himself, but he squishes that and pulls his gaze away. It'd be rude and there's more important things at hand.
Hige's semi-feral eyes flick to Taiki, then back to the old man once Taiki gives an okay. "I'm Inuzuka Hige, this is Konsho, my companion," Hige says by way of introduction, reaching down to scratch Konsho behind the ears. The large pup turns his head to look at Tenken with his bright eyes and doggy smile and says, "Hi! Nice to meet you!" In his chipper, always excited and never sad puppy voice. Once that is out of the way Hige looks to Taiki and frowns slightly. "What information did you get?"
Well, Michiko likely only realized Tenken was around thanks to a very faint, but noticeable tremor. Footsteps. Or rather, the sudden appearance of such. That's probably why she wasn't alarmed. Probably. That, or she's just trained herself to look/act calm regardless of what happens. She watches Tenken slap the seal onto the table and stares at the deal intently. It was complex, and definitely one of the Uzumaki clan…
"I'm Iwata Michiko," she adds, remembering that she never actually introduced herself when she and Tenken first met. Ahem! … Yeah, heat of battle and all that. No time for introductions. "And what information have you learned?" she adds to Hige's question, though her own is directed at Tenken.
Tenken motions to Taiki to go first, which he does. "The enemy has been weakened dramatically due to our raid on the base near Kumo. That base was the equivalent of their shinobi academy, and the Hyuuga was their chief trainer. I talked to the Hyuuga, especially in light of Shizuna-san's declaration that the Hyuuga was supposed to be a dead member of the branch family, and found that she had been declared dead 15 years ago after having gone missing in action during a battle five years previous. Our prisoner told us of two probable locations of their main base, both within the Land of Fire. I asked Tenken-sensei and my spy network to follow up on these leads."
Tenken nods to Taiki and then says, "Site B, about 2 miles outside the Land of Fire's capital city, is the location. It's hidden in a forest with a lake to its back. From what I can tell, there's three possible entrances, though one remains mostly unused by wear signs. Also, the identity of this latest officer led me to look up some records, which I found on two of the three actual officers remaining. I can't locate the third since her historical trail runs directly into the Land of Water."
Kenta listens avidly, nodding his head in understanding at certain points of the narration to show that he understands. He silently processes what he hears so far, as it's likely that all their thoughts would be needed to crack the situation later. The young man mostly keeps an intent gaze on Tenken, but he glances away from time to time to make sure that nothing untowards is going on beyond the range of their conversation. The genjutsu might be powerful, but best to stay alert.
Hige leaves Konsho to keep a lookout, though with his own senses on alert he'd hear anything untoward happening if it got closer. He mainly focuses, however, on the conversation at hand. Hige watches with a furrowed brow as his eyes flick between the two that talk, he himself falling silent once more and just listening. Hige's scent might say he's a tad annoyed at not having heard the information Taiki had before, but it doesn't show in any other way.
"Interesting…" Michiko muses quietly. "The Recluse seem to have quite the influence." She frowns a bit when Tenken talks about a new base. "They're so close to the hidden villages. I wonder how we haven't detected them, honestly." You think you know the land! Then she starts considering the information about this newfound base. "So there are three possible entrances. Which means we'll need three teams to cover everything, if this is to be at all like our last strike…" she muses. "Is this the only base left?" she asks.
"As far as the prisoner we have knows, yes," Taiki answers first. "Of course, Kaido only got this a week ago, and we had to verify things, especially since this last base is so close to the Daimyo's residence. I have no doubt in my mind these locations are not a matter of coincidence."
Tenken nods in agreement. "As far as I can tell, yes that's correct. And that's also based upon what information I know have on their leadership, which isn't this Kawano character that claimed leadership. No, if we stop at him, this won't be over."
"Umm… do we know anything about these three entrances, besides where they are?" Kenta finally asks in a soft voice. "I kind of mistrust the fact that there's one seemingly unused entrance. Those are often the ones that are most likely to be traps. The positioning, defenses and other such factor of each entrance means we might need to assign different personnel to cover each of them." There's a pause as Kenta shuffles through his thoughts a little more. "Could there also be a way to get inside undetected without using any of entrances? Maybe make one of our own. That seems like it could be a good way to surprise them. We'd still need at least three teams to cover the known escape routes though…"
Hige continues to listen, eyes moving along the table as people speak on various things, a faint, thoughtful frown remaining in place on his face. "You said there were three officers remaining, but one leads back to the Land of Water. We can't go there without suspicion, but if we need information on the third one…" Hige glances over to Michiko, considering. It would be best to have all the information possible, after all…even if Hige's feral instinct wanted him to go there right now.
"How many of the leaders are we looking at, then? Three? … We're going to need to make sure we have someone very strong on each team…" Michiko says with a frown, remembering the Recluse higher ups that she's faced. They were no joke. Then the girl looks to Kenta, nodding slightly and listening for the reply before saying, "If there's a way inside besides the three entryways, then we'd definitely need to work carefully. Earth and water ninjutsuists would have to work at it. And I have no doubt that there would be some way for the people inside to know someone is trying to enter. If anything, the team trying to drill in would end up getting assaulted."
Then comes the question about the water nin. "I might be able to investigate the water shinobi. Kumogakure's relationship with Kiri isn't unfriendly. I might be able to find some information." Friends in high places… Could possibly help. And maybe a question from the Raikage to the Mizukage?
Tenken nods as each person expresses different points of view, then looks to Taiki before answering them. "Their defenses are… exceedingly difficult versions of what we are used to facing from them. Traps, fuinjutsu seals, and fuinjutsu traps…" he says while producing a scroll with a sketch of the area he made himself. He then pauses for a moment to look between Michiko and Taiki before saying, "As an Elder of the Uzumaki Clan, I wish to express my deepest apologies. The reason I was concentrating on who these people are is because the two I know of, the fake leader and the man behind him, both had strong ties to my clan. Kawano was the apprentice of the man I have since learned to be the real leader of the Recluse: Uzumaki Hironombu, a man we believed to be dead for 35 years. He… he was a radical amongst my clan, and very, very dangerous. As far ans the entrances themselves, they're all cave-like entrances, with the third, least used one bearing a seal only known to three people, Hironobu, myself, and my son. I will have to be there to allow the team going into that one in, but I won't be able to accompany you. As far as the third person, if she follows suit, she will likely be another that was believed to be dead, but I don't have a name."
Taiki frowns at this information and snarls. "Oh, I know her name alright… it's not one I will likely ever forget. Kaguya Famiko, chief medical officer of the Recluse. She's the one that nearly killed me," he says. Shinobu and Nozomi both growl ominously at the mere mention of her name. "Expert in the darker side of medical ninjutsu, seals, and her clan techniques. And a complete psychopathic… tautology. I refuse to sully proofs everywhere by calling her one."
Kenta's face draws into a scowl. There's a lot of unpleasant information packed into the discussion. "So there's very little chance of us sneaking in either. With such strong shinobi on their side and all those traps, it'd be like trying to tip toe across a field of tightly clustered poisoned spikes… ummm… but a lot more dangerous." Kenta sucks in a breath and blows it out again. He frowns down at the map for a second before he looks up again. "Ummm… it sounds like this is going to be all very dangerous. And if we couldn't get enough people with the skill and power to cover whatever they can throw at us, we're going to have a high chance of failure. Taiki-sama, do you already have people in mind to handle each angle of this?"
An Uzumaki is the leader of the Recluse. That takes Hige by surprise. But then again it's surprising what kind of people can and will do evil things. It would explain why they use seals so much and are so very good at it. Hige leans back in his chair, arms folding over his chest as he considers everything they've talked about and tries to come up with anything that might be useful at the moment. Unfortunately Hige wasn't the best at planning. He was better at killing.
Michiko's eyes narrow slightly when they mention this final leader. "It sounds like we know more about her, then. If we need further information, I can try to delve into it, though," she offers. The girl glances over to Kenta, then. "Personally, I'd rather tiptoe across the poison spikes. That sounds a lot easier, Kenta-san," she jokes softly before glancing down at the map that's laid out before them. Then she looks up to Tenken. "I don't believe this is your fault, Tenken-sama. These two Uzumaki are quite crafty, by the sounds of it. Especially considering they've been 'dead' for the past few decades." She's not even lived to see two, even. "In regards to Kumogakure's forces, I'll try to gather as many people as I can. Naruko-san, Yori-san, Hisomu-san… Maybe even Rangiku-san and Mizuki-san. Hopefully I can bring Ryouji-kun and Rise-san. If Hiei-san can attend, that would be even better…" Most of the names she says seem to be mostly so that she can recall everyone. There were a lot of people in Kumo that she knew would be happy to kill off the Recluse. The question was, were they ready for the task?
Taiki sighs and looks over to Kenta. "I believe we're looking at a full mobilization of Konohgakure. Certainly all the heaviest hitters I can pull in, including Atsuro and Daisuke, if he he's available."
"I will be bringing in some Uzumaki fuinjutsu masters to help deal with all these traps," Tenken says, nodding to Michiko in gratitude, but determined to make up for the Uzumaki involvement in this sorted affair.
Taiki nods toward Tenken and offers him a slight smile. "As Clan Alpha for the Inuzuka, know that I don't blame you or the Uzumaki for this. Enough people go nuke-nin from every clan." He then turns to Hige and says, "And yes, that includes both you and Kaido-san." He then turns his attention to Michiko and says, "I have enough first-hand experience on the argument that I don't think bothering Meruin'san will be necessary. However, she will not be my primary target. No, I'll be after Hironobu-teme. I would recommend we see who does show up and designate one of our heaviest hitters per officer, if we can find a way to locate them. The Aburame, your snake and sound clans, and the Hyuuga would be the best to track them. Unfortunately, I only know the smell of Fumiko-teme, and she's not the most dangerous one there.
"We've seen some of what this… Fumiko can do. Do we have any intel on the capabilities of the other officers and leaders? The more we know, the better we might be able to counteract what they can do with people on our side. Ummm… It's pretty much a given that we'll be facing a lot of seal based opposition, but add on other unknowns and it gets kind of scary." Kenta rocks back a little in his seat and sucks in a breath through his teeth. "We can pretty much assume that we could end up with heavy injuries… or worse in each of the teams we deploy. Besides heavy hitters, that means we have to have at least a few good medics assigned. Otherwise, even the heavy hitters might get disabled before the threat's handled."
Hige gives a fang toothed smile to Taiki at that, though it holds more malice than anything else. "You wouldn't be able to keep me away from this. They've done more than enough to warrant my wanting to slaughter each and every one as painfully as possible." Hige looks between the others before shaking his head slightly, "Unfortunately I'm not as good at planning as the rest of you, so I can't do much there besides remember what we talked about."
"I can't speak for Konohagakure, but I can say for Kumo that we have a lot of heavy hitters and not a lot of medics. I'll assign one of them to a team, though. And I am a decent battlefield medic, should anyone need healing, while also able to attack many at once." Yes, Michiko can do a lot of things. That's possibly one of the reasons why she's part of so many missions! "I'll gather what forces I can from Kumo." Including a lot of NPCs. Then she glances to Hige and offers a small smile. "Heh… So long as you remember enough about the enemy to rip them to shreds, Hige-kun, that's all you need." Of course, that comment also applies to Taiki.
Taiki actually snorts at Hige's comment. "LIke I'm much better? The only difference in our two fighting styles is that I have more experience than you, Hige-san. They don't call me "The Wrath of Nature" in some circles for nothing. I'm normally much better at on-the-fly movements than anything else." He then looks to Michiko and says, "We'll field some medics ourselves, though we don't have a whole lot of combat medics certified for large-scale battles." AKA the number of higher eschelon medics is rather thin. "We'll also bring our fuinjutsu practitioners, though I believe I'm the most powerful one I know of."
Tenken nods and reiterates, "And we'll supply some of ours. It's the least we can do."