Date: October 30, 2016
Goh and Mushi arrive in Sunagakure to catch up with Itami, only to find that something from his past is catching him.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"The Twelve Hunt - Part 1"
The journey to Sunagakure had been a long one. With Goh still recovering from his operation, the travelling had been perhaps a bit slower than initially expected. But! The duo had eventually arrived, greeted and welcomed as they normally are. The weather was extreme, though perhaps a little different to that of the Land of Fire. It was certainly hotter in the desert, but the heat was infinitely more dry. Which makes sense, given all of the trees and greenery that dots the hills to the east.
After settling in for their first night, Goh is up and on the balcony at first light. With naught but his pants on, the pickler looks out at the view of a waking up Sunagakure. The rising sun had just cracked over the horizon. Noise was starting to filter across the streets. With a big breath he leans forward on the railing, elbows crossed on the metal. "Hm." He considers.
Mushi has been going through scrolls all days. She stores scrolls within scrolls, so she can carry an innumerable amount of objects around with her. And at last she's found it. It's a scroll with a salamander drawn in crude lines on the paper. Mushi is wearing pants, a silk shawl, and no shirt underneath. Not that anyone but Goh would know that. As she steps outside onto the balcony the desert air ruffles her hair and she has to brush it aside to keep it out of her face. She taps Goh with the edge of the scroll. "I finally found it," she says. Then she'd open the scroll to summon the contents. They belong to Goh. Just a couple of supplies and some of his clothes he'd left, years ago. It's in old condition and nothing of any great importance. She picks up a piece of paper that had fallen out. It has a recipe for some pickled idea. Her nose wrinkles and she flicks it aside.
Among the items is his old black cloak, his scarf, and just some uniquely shaped ninja tools. A heavier than normal kunai, some weirdly sized shuriken. But that's it, really. As they fall out, the pickler dons the items, the scarf flapping about his neck. Cloak billowing out behind him as the wind picks up. "Great find." He admits, wrapping an arm around the healer's waste from the side to give her a small hug. The silk shawl felt nice on his skin too!
"Hey." He points out, watching her dismiss the pickled idea. "That was my brainstorming paper! All my greatest, unrealised ideas went on that, you know." Letting her go, he stretches out a bit. "Alright then. What did you want to do for breakfast, lovely? I haven't been here in a… long time. Know any good places we can go to? I'm starving."
Mushi gazes down at his possessions, and her eyes look wistful. Since his story she's stopped crying and blaming herself. Out loud at least. But occassionally she'll look forlorn, and now she's wearing the expression. It takes her a while to notice that Goh is asking her where they should eat so she turns to him and gives him a smile. "We should go to the bar," she says. "I love their spicy food, especially for breakfast. Let me get dressed." She goes in and starts divesting herself of her night clothes while pulling on her daytime wear.
Following Mushi in, the male sits on the end of the bed, watching his lady prep herself for the day. "Spicy food for breakfast, huh?" He queries, folding arms across his chest. "I guess I'll have to remember that. What sort of spicy food?" Rotating his neck around, he considers.
"Some of the local spices they grow in the desert are pretty wild. Not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. If you ate them raw, anyway."
Mushi shrugs. "They make a good omelette with a bunch of spices," she says. "A good skillet too. Salty and spicy." She's dressed and has gathered up all her supplies in about ten minutes. She goes over to Goh to tidy him up. Smooth back his hair with one hand. Straighten his cloak. "There now you look presentable," she announces, pleased with the result. She'd lead him out by the hand like an eager kid, to find that one stall she was talking about. It's in the shade of two buildings conveniently arrayed so that none of the wind or sand gets between it. Eggs, meat, and veggies are simmering on a griddle. "We'll take two," Mushi says, and hot bowls of each would be put into their hands. And it /would/ be spicy. Very spicy. Mushi hesitates after she takes a small nibble, and then gasps. "Yeah that's…wow. Why not try a big bite Goh-kun?" Her smile is sly.
Now looking presentable, Goh is led to the little structure in the shade for breakfast. When the meal arrives, he seems to look at it a bit uneasily. He watches Mushi intently as she gasps after a nibble. "Really?" He asks after the suggestion of the big bite. "You trying to KILL me, woman?" The pickler laughs. "BUT! Never let it be known that Goh, the best pickler in the whole wide world, is afraid of a little spice." Licking his lips in preparation, the man takes a HUGE bite. Like, his whole mouth is full.
After it's swallowed, there is that 'holding pattern' sort of moment. And then? It hits. "…ooh." He groans, suddenly slouching forward. His face begins to sweat and colour, though it's likely not from the heat. "…ugghhh… OOOHHH YEEAHHH!" The pickler somehow manages to ride the wave of spice, perhaps trying to mentally cheer himself on. He pounds his own chest like some gorilla, before patting his stomach. Once it passes, his increased breathing starts to normalise. "…okay." He gets out. And that was only after one bite! "Your turn." He breathes out, still not fully recovered. "Two bites. BIG bites."
Mushi stares at Goh in horror, and then at the vendor, who shrugs. "You asked for it very spicy," he points out. She had asked for that, but she didn't mean chest pounding, leg stamping, screaming at the world spicy. She stirs the mismash of eggs and meat and veggies with her chopsticks. Then she lowers the bowl and says, "You know what? I'm not that hungry anymore. I'll package this and eat it later…you enjoy yours." Her stomach gives a traitorous rumble at that point, but she ignores it and starts quickly back towards the apartment. She's muttering about stuff that she still needs to do, work that still needs to be worked on, and everything besides the bowl of tormentingly hot food in her hands.
Yes. The traitorous growl from Mushi's belly is heard. But it appears she's not willing to throw herself into a similar sort of position. The pickler smiles wryly as she gets up to move away. Goh stands to follow, but… well, his strength is still gone! He stumbles a bit, latching onto the chair to stay upright. "Jesus, this is like some sort of poison." The pickler looks at the shopkeep too, who just snerks in amusement.
So at this point, Mushi and Goh are separated by about fifteen meters. As Mushi is striding back to the apartment, she will feel a /very/ unnatural chill. As if a wisp or air-conditioned air just went past her. But it's not singular. It's recurring, and blowing straight for the stall that the pair were at.
Thick clouds will form up in the sky above out of seemingly no-where, blocking the sun and causing the brightness to dim significantly. The wind increases violently, as if a storm has kicked in. But so suddenly? In the time span of only half a minute, it's gone from perfectly fine and hot to actually pretty cool, with wind and clouds above.
Mushi may be able to feel a 'presence' unlike anything she has perhaps felt before. It's like a living void. Something with a life signature, but with chakra undetectable. Not unlike Goh when she first found him. Only this being is /moving/. Up on the rooftops aver, it's closing in on her. Or rather, the pickler.
Who is still gripping the chair, mind you. Looking around in some confusion.
Mushi turns around when she notices Goh is lagging behind, and she looks both amused and worried. "Wow that really took it out of you," she says, concerned. "Maybe I'd better give you a run over." She heads back towards the pickler with a rueful smile. However it withers as the sky seems to darken. A wind whips up. But it's nothing compared to that terrible presence, like a gulf of darkness, hovering above them. She looks up. Is it forming around her? No. It's after Goh! She runs towards him and makes a few hand signs, throwing up a barrier around them. At first it'd seem like black chains, but they're actually countless numbers of seals floating in the air. Anything that'd touch it would be reflected back with its own force. Mushi is gathering chakra at a rapid pace. "Goh-kun, are you okay?" she asks. She's holding him almost crushingly close.
Goh watches as the seals form in the sky, a dome, or 'barrier' forming around them protectively. "I'm fine—!" He wheezes, not daring to tell Mushi that she is likely doing more damage to him than she is. As the wind really picks up, blowing with it sand and now debris, an ear-piercing SCREEEECH can be heard. The sound is something wholly unnatural, as if it was conjured up from the guts of hell.
And then, it appears. Up and over the rooftop of the neighbouring building it comes, a being nearly nine feet in height. It's covered in black rags from head to toe, covering every morsel of possible flesh that it might contain. The 'hood' remains steadfast over its head, even as it lands on the ground with a heavy thump.
"Oh no," Goh breathes, eyes widening considerably at the thing. His voice valls, watching the thing as it slowly yet surely strides over to the pair, still hidden in the dome. "…it's a phantom. It's come for me."
With a large metallic sword that the phantom draws, it shrieks again. "This is not a creature from this world…!" Goh gasps, looking at the sealed dome. Wondering if it will hold. For just at that moment, a titanic forced SLICE is made from the creature, trying to cut into the dome. The thing shakes and rumbles, as if struggling to absorb the load.
Mushi had hoped it'd be a normal foe, but she knew all along what was coming. Her stomach falls when she sees that towering reaper above them. It looks like death has come for him. Or rather, it seems more interested in Goh. This is too soon, all too soon. He needs the chance to grow stronger, and for his heart to heal more. This can't be happening moments after he was cured. When it attacks the dome it shudders and holds. Mushi flinches. Then twin seals appear on the back of her hands, and dissolve into her flesh. She stands up to stare at the foul thing. "Tell me what your name is," she calls out. "Tell me who you are. Tell me why you're here. If you do, we may be able to come to some kind of accord!"
"Mushi," Goh calls over the wind and storm, letting the healer take point for the moment. This was her technique, after all. "This is a phantom, sent from the dungeons of the Twelve. This… /this/ is what they were hoping to turn me into when I was there. It's nothing but a husk. A tool for them." The thing shrieks loudly again, a soul-rattling noise that causes the pickler to grip his ears in reaction. The phantom's face still cannot be seen, hidden by the shadow of the hood that it wears. Even as it thrashes again and again on the dome, each of its hit seemingly getting strong and stronger.
"We cannot defend forever. We need to destroy this being!" Goh punches a fist into his palm, gathering what tiny reserves of chakra he has. In reality though, he's going to be sort of useless in a situation like this. "I'm not sure it can die by any normal methods. Have you got any sealing techniques to vanquish it into?" He's yelling, still. The wind was vicious, picking up tables and chairs nearby and rolling them across the ground.
Mushi pulls something out her pack. Yet another one of her hummingbird feathers. She holds it out to Goh. "Take it," she says, "and eat it. This very second." First she's pushing spicy desert food on him. Now she's making him eat the feather. But it wouldn't taste like a feather. It wouldn't taste bad actually. And if he ate it, it'd dissolve into his mouth like a liquid rather than dry, feathery strands.
She doesn't stop to look and see if she's done so. A red seal has appeared on her forehead, like a blossom of blood, only to fade away. She's already making various seals when Goh pointed out what it was. That's when a circular symbol of seals appears a few yards away from the creature. And another identical one on the other side. More circles array around the monstrosity until there's ten in all. By the time, the phantom would be in the middle of this, and chains of "symbols" fly out to wrap around it. Draining its life force. But more than that. It'd be draining it's very form, breaking it down into pieces and storing them in the separate circles on the ground.
"You want me to eat a feather now?" Goh asks incredulously, though given the situation? He will obey. The hurricane like winds are felt on his body as he downs the feather like it's his last meal. It's a strange sensation, but one that quickly passes. For now, he just watches as the healer gets serious, his eyes widening considerably when the seals and circles appear around the phantom. "DO IT, MUSHI!" He calls, egging her on. As if she actually /needs/ motivation. "KICK ITS INCORPOREAL!"
The circles do their thing, as chains fly out and wrap around the wraith. It squeals in surprise, pulling against them as it tries to struggle free. It puts up an impressive fight actually, given the strength of the technique that Mushi is using. But ultimately? The phantom fails. Pieces of it fall apart, and the more of it that falls apart, the easier to pull more off. The squeals and screams from the things continue to the very end, until finally, only the sword remains. Though even that disintegrates into dust seconds later.
Once the thing is gone, the weather clears up near immediately. The clouds fade into nothing, the wind dies. The sun returns, splashing down onto the village as it should on an early morning.
Goh himself just stands there, gasping. Wondering what Mushi just did.
Mushi doesn't stop there. As soon as the threat seems to have passed she summons a small hummingbird. "There was an unknown monster aiming for us," she says. "Go around and make sure the coast is clear." The hummingbird would flit off. Mushi glances around. By some miracle no one had come around, but people surely saw the ominous clouds. "Don't tell anyone in Suna about this," she says to Goh. "If we tell anyone it shall be first the Kazekage. But I think I got it. It's safe."
She heads over towards the ten seals which are still branded on the ground. They've altered since they trapped the ghoul, the patterns changed. Mushi points to them. "Ten Point Seal Technique," she says. "I made it to trap bijuu. It basically pulls the target apart in ten different directions, and seals off portions of it. Some of the wraith chakra is still in there, sealed."
Then she'd pull out a few scrolls and start transferring the seals on the ground to the scrolls themselves, before wrapping each one up carefully. "Maybe we can get a clue from this. We can find out what they're doing…whether it's technology or chakra or some supernatural power." She glances at Goh doubtfully. "It is okay that I did this, right? You said we needed to destroy it, but if it's human…"
"Of course." Goh agrees. "You don't need to tell me twice. Well, really at all. The less we tell people about that, the better. People will just think it's a weather event, maybe." The pickler considers. "Hopefully." Oy. Watching as the hummingbird flies away, he turns back to Mushi, looming behind her as she explains the technique while executing the final parts.
"Yes." He answers without hesitation. "You did the right thing, in all the right ways. This was once a human. Maybe. And in that case, you did the poor creature a great service in bringing an end to unbearable pain." A hand lifts to clasp her on the shoulder from behind, giving it a squeeze. "Trust me on that." Considering the options, Goh narrows his eyes a bit. With a big breath, he rubs his face. Maybe he was still coming to terms with what just happened.
"I agree. If these phantoms are after me now, then the Twelve know I'm alive and want me back. They're going to know what we did here. They will know that I'm not alone." Suddenly, his eyes go to Mushi. "…I've dragged you into this…" The sheer horror on his face is near palpable. The realisation that he's dragged his love into this situation is… well. The worst feeling in the whole world.
Goh sits down, using the seat he was just at while eating breakfast. Naturally, the vendor is long gone. Fled.
When Goh becomes horrified at her involvement, Mushi turns to him and blinks. "You only just realized that?" she asks, genuinely surprised. "I thought you'd refuse to tell me about this in Konoha, to try and keep me from getting involved. I was surprised when you so easily gave up the story of how much danger you were in." She packs up the last scroll. "By the way that feather you just ate already melted in your system. My summon will always be able to track you so it won't be any use trying to heroically set out by yourself." Far from Goh's reaction, Mushi seems rather calm.
"That does it. Let's go." She'd head back up to their apartment as if nothing happened. And once they're inside she asks, "What does your gut say? Why do you they want you back, Goh-kun?"
Goh rubs his face a little bit more, still seated. "Yeah, well," He comments simply. "I guess I'm just not the smartest guy around." Probably not entirely true, but he certainly felt dumb right now! Still, with the weather clear and proceedings having returned to normal, the pickler trails Mushi up into the apartment they have rented out. He's clearly still trying to calm himself down, pacing about the room with hands on hips. Or maybe this is just how he problem solves.
"Maybe to finish the job?" Goh answers initially. "The phantoms I bet are hard to create. You just can't pump people full of chakra and expect them to hold out. What happens will be what happened to me. They just explode, right? Maybe they want to try again." He considers. "Na… na. They know I'm damaged goods. I can't do that and they know it. Maybe they just don't want anyone /alive/ telling people about them. More attention they get, the worse their life becomes." With that, he turns to Mushi. "What do you think? That makes sense, right?"
"Or it may have to do with pride," Mushi says. "You outsmarted them. You faked your own death and managed to slip out right from under their fingers. From what you say, your escape wasn't deliberate at all, but I wonder if they know that. We haven't heard anyone else telling these stories…so we have to assume you were the first to see that place, escape, and live to tell of it." She smiles. "Or maybe they like pickled vegetables. Either way, we need to talk to Itami soon. To conceal it too long would be considered rude and dangerous. This time it'll be different. You won't have a dozen salamanders. You'll have hundreds of Suna shinobi intent on bringing any enemy down."
She goes over to squeeze Goh's shoulders. "Don't feel guilty, Goh-kun. Because I'm certain Itami-san will help. Not because she's friends with you. But because these things are dangerous and evil. There's a reason she became Kazekage."
The suggestion from Mushi is one that flatters the pickler greatly. His look on her deepens, before he finds himself feeling embarrassed. Clearing his throat, he just grins a bit goofy like. "Well," He starts. "I wouldn't blame them. For, y'know. Liking my pickled vegetables. Killing me must be like, the ultimate sin anyone can ever perform." As she comes over to squeeze his shoulders, Goh finds himself relaxing considerably. "Yeah. We need to tell Itami. But I don't want entire Villages getting dragged into this. Numbers don't matter against these guys. We need quality. Not quantity. But yes. Itami. Need to talk to her."
His bravado almost makes Mushi roll her eyes. Almost. Maybe they're coming after him to kill him, and end the legacy of the pickled vegetables. When he agrees on telling Itami, but not dragging all the village into it, Mushi flicks him hard on the forehead. "Can you be any more vague? There's dozens of quality shinobi in this village. We can arrange them and deal with these threats. Besides, I like Suna. They're one of the hidden villages that have yet to drive me out at one point or another. Both the Kazekages I like, actually."
She takes out one of the scrolls that she collected the seal with, and examines it closely. "That seal technique can be dangerous," she says. "It was the one I accidentally killed that boy with. He had some chakra parasite in him, literally a living parasite. I was trying to extract and seal it up before it drove him made. Well, I did. But he died under the strain." She sighs. "It's a technique of last resort. I bet I can defeat even one of those things you mentioned."
"Ow." Goh rubs his forehead with a bemused looking expression after being flicked. "Quality over quantity." He repeats. "You could line two thousand Jounin against these Twelve and they'd barely make a scratch." Surely he's exaggerating, but the point is hopefully made. "We need the heavy hitters if you want to assemble some sort of group to get on the offensive. The best of the best. And I don't JUST mean offensive powers, too. Before you flick me again. Defensive players, too. Sealers. Best of all of them." Goh sticks his tongue out at her playfully, before sitting on the bed end.
Upon learning that it was this technique that killed the boy, Goh 'ahs' and nods his head in understanding. "Wouldn't that be nice? If you could take out these things with it?" He asks. "These phantoms are husks though. Just shells of what the Twelve are. I think you have the right idea though. Sealing these guys is going to be easier than killing them. If we even can kill them. Maybe we should go talk to the Uzumaki clan?"
Mushi frowns. She doubts that they could stand against two thousand Jounin, but she understands it'll take more than standard Jounin to be most effective. She rubs her chin. "You're talking about the most powerful shinobi among the hidden villages," she says. "It'd take a fortune to hire them. Apart from the Kages…hmm. There's Murasame Michiko in Kumo. Inuzuka Taiki and Satonezu Eremi in Konoha. In Kiri there's Kaguya Yuriko, Okumo Naoya, Okumo Meruin, and Doihara Ishino. And here there is the former Kazekage Sousa. And elsewhere…Nagamura Shuuren. There are others of course, but those monstrous guys come to mind."
She shakes her head. "The Uzumaki Clan? I don't know anyone in that clan. How could we trust them?"
"Yeah, that's a good point." Goh slaps his forehead in a bit of forgetfulness. "I don't know anyone there either. Yeah, yeah, you're right. Looks like that spicy food mushed up my brain some." As Mushi rattles out the names, he thinks. "Maybe we can call in favours with some of them. Those are all good names, though. But yeah, we need to plan out what we're doing first. One step at a time and all that." Standing up, he stretches.
"Alright. What do you say we go find Itami? And… actually get some REAL breakfast?" He asks, patting his stomach. "I barely got to eat anything. You even less so." Heh.
Mushi rubs her chin. It'd certainly be most easy to call in favors that they owed her, but none are springing to mind. She sighs. She'll have to give some thought to that. She stands up and once again puts the scroll carefully away, even though it looks like nothing more than ink on paper. At the mention of breakfast her stomach gives a growl of agreement. She'd dropped her food in her haste to protect from that husk. Maybe they should go somewhere a little less spicy. So she gives a slight nod, squeezes Goh's hand, and says, "Breakfast first." They'd leave.