Date: January 17, 2015
Atsuro's team of shinobi set up an ambush for Lady Feather after evacuating the criminal's targeted village in the Land of Snow. They disguise themselves as the villagers while they wait for Lady Feather and her Fledglings to arrive. The invaders drop in using giant summoned swans on the first day of the three-day window. Due to preparations made by the Leaf shinobi, the hidden barrier and seals intended to immobilize all the inhabitants of the village at once fails. Lady Feather has her Fledglings herd the fake villagers to houses for lock-up, but quickly meets resistance. As the two groups of shinobi battles it out, parts of the village gets destroyed. Eremi manages to capture Lady Feather herself, but victory is short-lived. Sakura, the little Fledgling girl that Atsuro, Eremi and Kenta met in a previous mission, tries to kill her master in revenge for years of being a captive. At the last moment, the wily old woman uses a special jutsu to replace herself with the little Fledgling boy, Mokuba, who dies from Sakura's attack, despite Kenta's attempts to save him. Lady Feather kills Sakura by devouring the little girl's soul before fleeing via a summoning of a giant Arctic tern. The remaining Fledglings grieve over their deceased siblings and gives the Leaf shinobi information to help track Lady Feather. Before long, all the Fledglings left alive are forceably summoned away by Lady Feather via their cursed seals. In the end, the lives of the real villagers are saved and Lady Feather's plans are disrupted as needed. Unfortunately, the goal of capturing Lady Feather and freeing the Fledglings failed.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"This Immortal Coil - A Qualified Success"
Land of Snow
The two days following Team Atsuro's arrival at and evacuation of the Snow village being targeted by Lady Feather is one of nerve wracking anticipation. There's little telling when the villain will arrive at the scene of the proposed crime. It could be before the three-day window during which completing the jutsu becomes viable. It could any of the three days -during- that period. The best that the Leaf shinobi can do is to stay on high alert and prepare for a fight at a drop of a hat. By the time that the first day of the three-day window arrives, at least half of the Leaf shinobi are suffering from mild to moderate stress levels.
The seals that Natsumi placed around the village couldn't be removed or altered, just partially neutralized by the work that Kenta and the seal experts put in. In all likelihood, the Leaf shinobi will be fighting at a handicap, while the Fledglings that they're facing won't. Hidden traps and modifications made to the village will have to even things out in the good guy's favor.
The other problem is how to set up an ambush to make it not look like an ambush. With the villagers evacuated, there isn't enough activity around the place to make it look normal, even though most of the Leaf shinobi are disguised as villagers. There's just enough people to keep the towers manned by the best sensors and keep disguised shinobi at the major entrances. A few others move around the streets, miming various acts of work that the villagers themselves should be doing. Thankfully, the fact that the snow's coming down even heavier than when they arrived means that lower activity levels don't look -completely- strange… just somewhat strange.
The core shinobi of the group stands just out of sight near the main entrance. Kenta has given both Eremi and Atsuro some freshly brewed tea that'll help warm them up a little in the almost mind numbing cold. "Ummm… it's probably horrible of me to think this, but I wish that Lady Feather will just get here now, so that we won't have to stand in the snow for hours," the young medic-nin mumbles to his companions. He's dressed in the winter clothing of a villager, but there are newly added pockets and pouches hidden away to hold medical supplies and tools. It took him a while to make the alterations, which he did on the first day here, after helping with the seal work.
Despite the nervousness of the other shinobi here, Atsuro is almost calm. He's been waiting for this moment for months. If he has to wait a couple more hours or a couple more days, what difference is it to him? They've set all the traps they can, and the seals are taken care of, at least to some degree. Now all that matter is detecting the approaching enemies in time, hoping that Natsumi can get the kimono, and dealing with Lady Feather herself. He's also ordered the group to avoid killing anyone who isn't Lady Feather — but given the realities of the situation, this means they should refrain from killing blows once the enemy is incapacitated, rather than actually putting themselves at further risk by reducing the power of their attacks.
Atsuro accepts the tea from Kenta and takes a sip of it. "Thanks," he says quietly. He's pretty seriously bundled up — not just to protect him from the cold, but to make him look like a villager. He has to pull away from his face a scarf, which is there mainly to hide his facial tattoos, to drink the tea. There doesn't really seem to be any chance of Taizen looking like a normal dog, so he's nearby in an alley, ready to strike but out of sight.
The snow and the cold, the possibilities of being ambushed and overwhelmed, none of that bothered Eremi. What he couldn't stand was waiting around with nothing to do but fake busy work. Unlike Atsuro and Kenta, Eremi wasn't as invested in this having only been brought in recently. So having to wait even longer was a bit of a nuisance for him and it made him antsy. The tea that Kenta offered was kind, but did little to help his situation as opposed to the sake he had pour in.
"I agree." Eremi would offer after a long, slow sip of his tea. "It's too bad we can't go looking for Lady Feather, bring the fight to her." A shrug of his shoulder would be given from under the many layers of clothing worn. Animal skins and the likes taking over the attire he was wearing when first coming to this village.
"She seems kind of tricky. I bet that's why none of us knew about her until recently and how she had enough time to set up multiple secret bases that we can't track." Kenta frowns. He had finished his own drink earlier, so the scarf around his face hides most of the expression. The medic-nin glances up at the sky. It's covered with heavy storm clouds, which release a bounty of snow that's being whipped around by heavy torrents of wind. The cold wind tugs at his scarf and clothing, making him shudder from the frigid touch. If only there's a Taizen-senpai to snuggle up against. He can't exactly do that with Atsuro or Eremi. A little bit of sunlight won't hurt either.
"I wonder if it ever stops snowing here. At least Lady Feather and her people should be tired after traveling in this. I think there's a lot more snow on the ground to walk through than when we arrived. Remember how low our energy was even with all those pills that we took…?" The young medic-nin frowns even deeper, enough for his brows to visibly furrow above the concealment of the scarf. "Umm… what's that…?" He points at several specks in the sky. They're not white enough to be snow and too dark against the clouds to be weather formations. They're also moving towards the village from the south.
"It would be nice if we could choose where we were fighting," Atsuro says with a nod to Eremi. "She is tricky. That's what I'm worried about," he adds, "But it seems like she doesn't know we're here, so maybe this time we've tricked her. Hopefully." He inhales some of the steam from the tea, then takes another sip. "And from what that letter said, we should try and find the location of the other bases — Takato might still be in one of them. After this, we have to find out where they are and search them all until we've found him."
When Kenta points out whatever's in the sky, he looks up and narrows his eyes. "Birds," he says after a moment, "Could be her." He brings the mug of tea to his mouth, tips it and chugs the contents, then puts it down on the ground next to the wall of a building. Then he puts two cold fingers to his mouth and gives a couple of short sharp whistles, letting everyone know to be ready.
Eremi sipped at the tea, listening quietly at the information. "Wow. So it doesn't just come to an end here then. Do you even expect Lady Feather to show at this point or just her subordinates?" Eremi didn't mind helping, he was more than happy to be brought along for such an obviously important task. Unfortunately, he had several other things to deal with back in Konoha and would most likely not be able to continue on this mission with the others if it would keep taking him away for weeks at a time.
The gesture from Kenta would bring Eremi's focus back to the present and as he looked off into the distance, he wasn't sure what to make of it, but Atsuro knew. "Is this what we've been waiting for? They're earlier than we expected yeah?" The rest of his doctored tea would be consumed before being tossed aside as he awaits further direction.
"Umm… if those really are birds, it has to be her. She summon birds from what we understand…" Kenta says. He looks up at the sky with growing nervousness. He only watches for a minute or two before he ducks his head back down. In case the things in the sky are scouting the area, they shouldn't be given notice that they were observed approaching. The "villagers" would have little reason to keep a close watch on the sky and it's unlikely that the actual villagers would have noticed anything coming from that direction.
Atsuro's whistling doesn't carry far in the howling winds, but the closest shinobi hears it and sends the message along the line from group to group. There's no visible break from "normal" activities, except for a brief hitch in people's steps when they pause to listen. Then, they keep going on their way with their shoveling and hammering or whatever else they're doing.
As the dark specks in the sky get closer to the village, Atsuro's prediction quickly become truth. The specks are seven gigantic snow-white swans flying in a V-shape formation. Their majestic wings beat powerfully against the wind currents, making short work of what would blast less hardy creatures out of the sky. The swans soar over the village, graceful as their smaller cousins would be, despite being the size of an elephant each. They fly several circles around the area. Whoever's controlling them don't seem to notice any alarming oddities. Some signal must have been sent out, since all the swans suddenly start heading for the center of the village. Snow blasts up in all directions from the draft that their wings create and the disguised shinobi closest to the area start shouting in pretend alarm.
Two dark shapes dismount from each swan before the giant birds disappear in a puff of smoke. What remains are fourteen individuals standing around the village well, all of them youths from ten to seventeen years old except for one. A withered old woman stands next to the familiar - to Kenta and Atsuro - visage of a red haired Natsumi. The old woman stands with a bowed back, barely five foot tall with a black oak staff to help her stay standing. Heavily layers of clothing hides most of her features, but leaves her pruney face exposed. Despite being a hunched witchy figure, she was obviously a tall and proud creature in her youth. That can be still be seen from the way that her sharp, black eyes glitter fiercely while she looks over the cowering "villagers". On the other hand, her subordinates look on with varied expressions of resentment, discomfort resignation or calm.
"Natsumi," Lady Feather croaks in a rusty voice that's muffled by her layers of clothing. "Begin." The red-haired girl at her side makes a few hand seals. The seals that Atsuro's team discovered earlier activate instantly. Ripple walls of chakra spray upwards to form an impenetrable dome while black seal characters spread throughout the village. The Leaf shinobi feel their motions and thoughts grow slightly lethargic, but not completely frozen as Lady Feather probably intended.
As all this commotion starts up, Atsuro pulls his scarf over his face again. This could all depend on the Leaf ninja springing the trap at the right time, and he doesn't want to do anything that might jeopardize that. He then grabs a shovel and starts to walk towards the center of the village. He's still keeping up the ruse, though, stumbling through the village streets and propping himself up with the shovel, using it as a makeshift walking stick. Taizen follows along, stalking stealthily through the back alleys of the village and hiding near the square — not revealing himself yet.
Atsuro trudges into the town center, making it look like a real struggle to walk. "H-hachiro?" he calls over to one of the false villagers, "What's goin' on here?" He looks over to Lady Feather and her entourage, "Who're… who're you?"
All the waiting had finally paid off, but what followed when the swans landed only to disappear into puffs of smoke came as quite the surprise. The dome wall erected, Eremi couldn't help himself when strangely enough, a yawn escaped his mouth. Given the adrenaline that was starting to pump through his body, it was unexpected. An effect of the seals perhaps. Something to consider while Eremi moved toward the center of town. He didn't follow along behind Atsuro, instead taking a detour that would allow him to flank from the east. He wasn't sure the abilities of those he would be facing against, so wanted to not only give himself some distance should they attack, but separate himself some from Atsuro and Kenta.
Kenta follows after Atsuro and tries to copy the senior shinobi's staggering motions. He keeps his head ducked, as if it's too hard to lift. The young shinobi doesn't trust his acting abilities to paste a correct expression on his face. He secretly start molding his chakra and prepares to activate the seals inked into his own skin. Other false "villagers" also start wandering in the same direction to play the part of a nervous, yet curious crowd of civilians, so Kenta quickly blends in with the rest. Atsuro's question to Lady Feather is echoed from a few mouths, including the one that Atsuro addressed as Hachiro, so Kenta also voices the same, although he speaks it so softly that it's unlikely that anyone hears.
Eight of the fourteen invaders had spread in pairs to intercept the "villagers" before they can make it to Lady Feather. They stand in a loose line and raise their hands or weapons threateningly whenever anyone gets too close. Lady Feather herself stands in the middle of five Fledglings. One of them is obviously Natsumi, the Uzumaki girl that activated the barrier. Two others in that small group is also known to Atsuro, Eremi and Kenta. Sakura stands together with Mokuba, looking entirely bored with the proceedings, while Mokuba has a downright miserable expression on his face. The last two Fledgling guards consist of a stocky teenage girl with a scarred face and a hulking teenage boy even taller than Atsuro.
Natsumi, Sakura and Mokuba obviously recognizes Atsuro, but they react in different ways. Sakura gives the Inuzuka a murderous glare. Natsumi blanks her expression, but her eyes dart towards the well. Mokuba looks both relieved and stricken at the same time. The little Shimizu boy cast his gaze around the area to try to locate Kenta and Eremi, but those two are too well hidden or blended into the crowd to be easily seen.
Lady Feather narrow her eyes at Atsuro. "You shouldn't be able to walk," the wizen woman croaks, instead of answering the question. She focuses her annoyance on Natsumi. "Your work's usually so fine, dear. It's rare that you make such a big error. The villagers are supposed to be immobilized. They're still walking around. I hope that poor, simple Takato didn't poison your mind against our plan." This makes Natsumi visibly blanch and start shaking her head vigorously. Lady Feather reaches up to pat Natsumi's face and turns back to the false villagers. "Don't worry about who I am or what I'm doing here. You're all going to die by sundown." The old woman's voice sharpens into a knife edge. "Round up all the villagers and bind them, my Fledglings!"
Atsuro continues to stare at Lady Feather in feigned shock, watching silently as she speaks, and being careful not to look at any of the Fledglings he knows for too long — can't arouse any sort of suspicion. When Lady Feather announces that they'll die, his eyes widen. "What? No!" He stumbles backwards until he hits a wall and grabs on to the shovel to hold himself up, as if he's using up the last of his strength. "What have you done?" he asks, desperately clinging to the shovel. He staggers to his left, ostensibly a pitiful attempt to get away from Lady Feather, but in the alley he's just placed himself near, Taizen remains hidden, only known to Atsuro by his scent. Atsuro slumps against the wall, "Get away from me!" It's just a matter of baiting the trap.
When the guards start moving out to round up the villagers, Eremi is one of the stragglers caught by 'surprise', "Hey, whoa. What's with the weapons? I'm afraid if you've come here to pillage the village, we lack anything of real value. On the other hand, if it's a good drink you're after, I'd be happy to buy you one over at the bar." His words naturally falling on deaf ears as the guards simply direct him towards the rest of the villagers with their weapons ready to strike should Eremi try anything. "Alright, alright. I'm going. No need to get aggressive. To be honest I'd be a little faster about it, but I feel rather sluggish once that wall was erected. Don't you feel it as well?" Small talk to garner any kind of information from the intruders until arriving at the presence of Lady Feather with the rest of the villagers. Once there, it was clear who was in charge and if this was the groups first time dealing with the woman, he'd attack in an instance. Seeing as how the others were still waiting on the signal to strike, he would do the same.
"Ummm… yeah! What's going on? What do you mean we're going to die?! We're not going to resist. Just take whatever you want!" Kenta exclaims as he's herded back with the rest of the fake villagers. He's really not a very good actor at all. The young medic-nin keeps moving until he's also against the same wall that Atsuro had pressed back into. At that point, he hunches down as if he's cowering and secretly downs a small pill that he palmed from one of his pouches. The blowing snow and wind also help to hide the gesture.
The team of Leaf shinobi's big, but it's evenly matched by the Fledglings. With slightly over half of the Fledglings doing the herding, there's only a slight advantage for the few seconds it takes for the remaining half to provide reinforcement. The herders keep shoving the fake "villagers" backwards for a distance, but then they start to break the group into smaller groups, with a single Fledgling handling each one. Seems like they don't want a big concentration of villagers in one place, since they try to force the groups of disguised Leaf shinobi towards different houses.
Lady Feather watches the proceedings with a bored expression on her wizen face. She leans heavily on her staff to totter a few steps, so that she can sit down on the well. The old woman gestures for the scarred girl and the hulking boy to help the rest of her minions. "Ryou. Suzume. Go help them." She also gestures for Sakura and Mokuba to stay by her side as guards. Then, she turn to Natsumi. "Something's strange here, Natsumi. There should be some villagers coming out of the houses to find out what's going on, since your immobilization jutsu failed so miserable. Be a dear and going look around while your siblings handle the villagers out here. Bring back some hot tea. I want to warm up before we start the jutsu." Lady Feather draws her cloak tighter around her hunched, spindly form to shield herself against the wind.
"Yes, Mother…" Natsumi simpers, gaining her a disgusted look from Sakura. The younger girl could barely hide her discontent with the whole business of having to guard the crone, even with Mokuba giving her subtle pokes every so often. Natsumi simply stares at Sakura for a moment before she walks around the well towards one of the nearby houses where the "villagers" aren't being herded towards. The Uzumaki girl quietly snags a small package by the well on her way - the wrapped up kimono.
Meanwhile, the scarred girl, Suzume, is advancing at Atsuro, Kenta and a hidden Taizen. "Shut your mouth, would you? All your groveling's getting on my nerves and it won't change anything. Act like a man," she tells Atsuro. Her stocky figure barrels forward and a hand snaps out. Instead of going for Atsuro, the girl grabs Kenta's scarf, which is one of his cat-print ones. She coos in childish delight. "Awww… this is adorable! Hey, can I have it when you're dead? I promise to take good care of it. You're kind of adorable too. I'd ask Mother if I can keep you too, but she's kind of mean about stuff like that. She's the only one allowed to have pets."
The hulking boy, Ryou, had separated from his partner and is in the middle of confronting Eremi. His approach is a little different. While he towers over Eremi by almost a foot, despite being a few years younger, Ryou acts as if Eremi's a rabid animal. He holds up both palms and pitches his voice into a soothing murmur. "It's ok. It's ok. I know things are scary, but it's going to be fine. Mother says that it'll be painless when it comes. You just have to get into one of those houses and sit tight for five or six hours while Mother does what she does. Enjoy a meal and don't think about what's going outside. Shhh…. Shh…. I know the sluggish feeling is strange, but it's not dangerous."
Now that Natsumi's left with the kimono, it's just about time to spring the trap. He waits a moment for her to get away, then he yells back to Suzume. "Change anything? You just came here to kill us! You're nothing but a bunch of MURDERERS!" May as well ham it up a little before he springs the trap. Which he does, pushing off the wall to stand straight up before hefting the shovel in both hands and thrusting the butt end of the handle several times, aiming to ram it into Suzume's midsection and drive the air from her lungs to knock her out of the fight for a moment.
Eremi couldn't help but smirk with the 'hulk' doing his best to seem non-threatening while trying to be reassuring that dying will be ok. "Uh, I'm not the best at sitting still for hours on end waiting for your mother to finish her job…I have to ask though, where is your father in all of this?" The shout from Atsuro off in the distance was clearly the signal, if any, that it was time to start. "Enough small talk it seems. It's time for you to rest for five to six hours. Don't worry though, it's going to be fine. Shhh…" Stepping forward Eremi would thrust a punch to the behemoths midsection that quickly followed into a strike to the jaw and ended with a low sweep of the legs. When Eremi arose from the kick, the layers of clothing would fall off revealing the black outfit from a few days ago.
Kenta makes a choking noise when Suzume grabs his scarf and yanks. He reflexively lifts his hands to claw at his neck to loosen the ties. Thankfully, he doesn't have to worry about asphyxiating for long. There's an Atsuro coming to the rescue! Kenta hurriedly springs aside and reaches towards his hidden pockets for tags once the hand on his scarf drops away.
Suzume's mouth opens in shock when Atsuro suddenly goes from cowering idiot to enraged villager. It takes a second for her to realize that Atsuro's moving too fast for a mere villager. She starts to duck, but is struck by the handle of Atsuro's shovel. It sends her reeling backwards. The scarred girl spits out a stream of water that whirl in the air around like ribbons. They partially block the next few blows. The shovel smashes into the ribbons, sending out sprays of moisture, before doubling Suzume over. "You're shinobi," Suzume gasps loudly. She starts retreating towards Lady Feather.
Ryou does slightly better. While he's surprised by Eremi's sudden assault, he manages to tighten his stomach muscles quickly enough to blunt the punch to his midsection and snap up a forearm to catch the second punch against the meaty limb. Then, he goes tumbling from the leg sweep. The hulking boy is quicker than he looks, because he rolls and pops back up almost immediate. "Aww, come on. Why did you have to do that. I don't want to hurt you," Ryou complains with a sad expression on his face. He charges forward with a yell and swings his fist at Eremi's face in a wild haymaker. Halfway through the action, a thick layer of ice grows around the boy's arm. Getting struck by that fist would be like getting punched by a boulder.
When Atsuro and Eremi starts fighting back, all the false villagers take that as a signal to spring the trap. The sound of fighting quickly fills the air. False villagers trigger traps of poison tags and force against those Fledglings standing close to places where traps are hidden. Others throw shuriken, engage in hand to hand combat or place their trust in elemental jutsu to subdue their enemies. The Fledglings are taken by surprise, but they quickly rally and retaliate. Swords flash in the dim storm light and shouts ring out. The front of a house explodes nearby when girl punches a door by mistake instead of a disguised shinobi that she was aiming for. A boy starts launching laser-like bolts of lightning, but is blocked by the powerful defense of a Hyuuga's Revolving Heaven technique.
"What is this?!" Lady Feather barks in outrage by the well. "Subdue them, but don't kill them, my Fledglings! I want answers!" She pops back up to her feet and stares at the sudden fighting that's breaking out. Sakura and Mokuba edges closer to her, being the designated bodyguards. The former couldn't hide a highly satisfied smirk.
"And not just any shinobi." Atsuro lowers the shovel for a moment as a large black form blurs out of the nearby ally. Taizen drops a katana for Atsuro, but keeps speeding forward, jumping into the air and spinning. At first, it looks like a classic tsuga, but he dips low to the ground, then suddenly turns sharply upward as he approaches Suzume. He's trying to send her flying and temporarily disable her, rather than simply injuring her.
Atsuro doesn't grab the sword yet. Instead, he decides to give Lady Feather just the answer she's looking for. "Remember me, Lady!?" He calls over, "When I killed your crow, I looked… just… LIKE… THIIIIIIS!" In a single swift motion, he pulls off all his extra layers of clothing and tosses them aside. By the time they land in the snow, he's already raised the shovel again and with one hand, he throws it like a javelin, hurling it blade first towards Lady Feather herself. He bends down, grabbing the katana and removing it from its sheath as he dashes forward.
Unexpectedly, Ryou was much faster and hardier than Eremi had anticipated so while only one of his three blows had managed to land, Ryou still pressed the assault. The frozen fist reached out for Eremi, missing as the leaf shinobi suddenly drops down only to instantly kick a foot up at the larger kids chin that if it hits, would send him into the air. Straightening up, Eremi would plan to race after Lady Feather and hopefully get past the bodyguards at the womans side. The distance was great, but Eremi's speed is hard to keep up with. In a flash he disappears attempting to get closer without being detected.
Kenta knows better than to dash forward to help in the fighting. After he gets his breath back, the young medic-nin runs up the wall of the house that he's up against to reach the roof. He miscalculates a little and nearly gets knocked off by a strong gust of wind, but manages to stay on by clinging to an edge with his left hand. Atsuro and Taizen should have any problems against Suzume. Eremi's strong, but he has no support, so Kenta turns his attention that way. With Eremi so close to the enemy, he couldn't risk anything poison based. The medic-nin sends a volley of shuriken flying at Ryou instead.
Suzume shrieks loudly when she sees a whirling cyclone of fang and fur heading towards her. "You son of a biscuit!" The scarred girl ducks her head to breathe out a torrent of fire at the ground right before Atsuro and Taizen strikes. The blast launches her backwards, out of the path of destruction. The ground explodes when the Inuzuka hit, but Suzume's already gone. The scarred girl keeps blasting out flames to maneuver herself through the air and cut off Atsuro's charge towards Lady Feather. Sakura and Mokuba are the last line of defense, not the first. "Eat this, son of a nun!" Suzuke shrieks when she launches herself sideways to catch Atsuro's thrown shovel after cutting off his approach. She makes some hand seals and blows through a ring made of her fingers. An expanding ball of fire explodes towards Atsuro and Taizen.
"Awww, come on! Please stand still!" Ryou begs when Eremi dodges his attack and retaliates in an instance. Why is it that he had to get such a tricky opponent? The hulking boy ducks sideways and slaps a hand into the ground to calls up a gate of ice. The defense hadn't fully formed when Eremi's foot smash into it and Ryou's jaw. The hulking boy flies into the air and bounces when he lands. He groans in a dazed manner with hands cupping his chin. "Awww, man… Awww, man… You could have broke it… Ahhh!" The first of Kenta's shuriken lodges in his behind. "Come -on-!!" he groans and staggers to his feet. He forces himself to go through some hand seals despite the pain in his face. The next few shuriken are scattered like leaves by a blast of wind from Ryou's mouth. He follows up by launching a volley of ice needles at Kenta. "Sorry, little dude! No hard feelings!" The hulking boy looks around. Now where did Eremi go?
Atsuro sighs as he and Taizen just hop out of the way of the fireball. Really, the fight is just a diversion right now, buying Natsumi time to get the kimono. But he knows he can defeat Lady Feather on his own if he gets the opportunity, so this girl is just wasting his time. Besides, the more he beats up on the Fledglings now, the less risky things are for the other ninja in a protracted fight. "Get out of my way," he snarls at her. He and Taizen jump into the air again. This time, with the benefit of both attacking, they can pull off a well-coordinated assault, making multiple attempts to ram Suzume into the air this time, both Atsuro and Taizen zipping through the air and striking at her repeatedly.
Where did Eremi go? Right where he needed to be. After quite a bit of running, using the shadows and snow flurries to cover his movements, Eremi dropped from the sky to land in front of Sakura, Mokuba and Lady Feather. "I don't know what you are planning, but I'm going to be putting a stop to it now." A sudden leap in the air, Eremi spun about with a back kick that while impressive looking, was too far away to come in to contact with any of the three before him. The speed of the strike however was fast enough that the snow that fell around them began to converge in a single point as a whirlwind sprang forth and raced towards the three.
Kenta had thrown shuriken and he's getting spikes of -ice- thrown at him in return? The young medic-nin barely have time to think about what he's doing. His body moves reflexively to thrown himself flat against the roof of the house he's on to provide a smaller target. At the same time, he calls up his will and his chakra like he's practiced so many times in the last few weeks. A flood of black seal characters ripple from his body to fill the air around him in a defensive array. When the ice needles hit, they shatter against the seal characters as if they stuck a solid wall.
"How about no?!" Suzume retorts when Atsuro snarls at her. "Actually, how about yes?!" she exclaims a moment later. The scarred girl flings herself sideways with a jet of flame to move her out of Atsuro's reach while preparing a retaliation. She nearly makes it, but the attack slams into her side and cracks a few of her ribs. The scarred girl flies through the air with an odd green mist streaming out of her mouth, like the tail of a comet in flight. When she hits a nearby house, the plaster cracks. It also causes her to expel the rest of the green mist in a burst. All the snow along the ground that touches the mist vaporizes. When the mist touches the house, it instantly sags and starts melting from its highly acidic touch. A section of the wall falls down on Suzume and buries her. Good thing the she didn't have a chance to spit that stuff at Atsuro and Taizen.
Ryou's still looking around for Eremi. Where the heck is that guy? Kenta's not standing up anymore, so the hulking boy figures that he had subdued the medic-nin. "Sorry, kid. No hard feelings," he mumbles under his breath while he scans the area, not realizing that Kenta's actually older than him. There's Suzume holding her own against some Inuzuka. Oops. Now she's down. There's Shun tying up one of the fake villages with shadows. Ouch, Emi's chasing off two of the smaller fake villagers with a cloud of wasps. That's going to be painful. Speaking of painful, Airi just exploded another house with one her punches, but ended up getting hit by a lightning attack in retaliation. And there's… Eremi attacking Lady Feather's small group. "Awww, man! Mother's going to kill me," Ryou groans and heads off in a run.
Suzume, Mokuba and Lady Feather are caught by surprise when Eremi sudden appears between them. "Sakura, kill him!" Lady Feather orders harshly. Apparently, the no-kill rule only applies to anyone that doesn't reach her.
Unfortunately, Eremi moves too quickly. The whirlwind of kinetic force and snow that he sends towards the trio smashes into two of the three. Lady Feather slams into the ground and skids. Her old body turns limp as a doll. Suzume kneels and dozens of her scarves flow out to weave a dome of chakra harden fabric. It's intended to shield Mokuba too, but the surprised little boy gets thrown away like a leaf before her dome finishes weaving. The little girl's the only one that comes out of it unscathed. "Kill the Hag, not Mokuba-kun! We had a deal!" she yells at Eremi when the dome unravels. She hurries to Mokuba's side and is relieved to see that the little boy's breathing.
All around the village, things suddenly quiet down when the rest of the Fledglings realized what just happened. Even Ryou slows down his charge to an uncertain walk. There are expressions of hope and dread all around. Many of the Fledglings start lowering weapons or stop making hand seals.
Suzume's out of the way. The instant Atsuro and Taizen land, they're running for the center of the square, to where Eremi, Mokuba, Sakura and Lady Feather are. When they're there, Atsuro immediately moves towards Lady Feather and holds the katana to her throat. "Check if she's alive," he tells Taizen. He spares a moment to glance in Kenta's direction — they're going to need mednin healing both Leaf nin and Fledglings once this is done. Then he calls out to everyone. "I don't know what all of you are thinking or planning right now," he says loudly, "But I know that this woman has ways of controlling you. Just in case any of those are still working, I'll say this: I can kill her right now if I have to. So if there are any of you who still intend to help her or fight us… don't."
"Huh?" Eremi doesn't remember anything about a deal. Scratching at his head, a shrug of his shoulders would be given, "Well, I had to make it look believeable that we didn't have a deal." Because we didn't. Eremi would slowly walk over toward Lady Feather, standing with a follow up strike should she move before Atsuro approaches with a blade at her throat. "Oh sure, take all the credit." Somehow finding a way to make jokes even at moments like this. Blame Atsuro for that trait. "You're alive, aren't you." Lifting a foot to place down on one of the womans hand, applying enough weight to force it into the snow and the hardened ground beneath. Any wails of agony would be a clear sign she's still conscious.
The Fledgings listen to Atsuro's words and none of them move to help Lady Feather or resume their fighting against the disguised Leaf Shinobi. "I'm not going to do anything help her! She kept us like slaves! She took me from my home in Tree Country!" one of the older boys call out. "Iwagakure!" yells the girl that was exploding things. "I'm a Nara!" another boy calls out. "I'm from the Shirayuki clan," Ryou says, sounding apologetic. More and more Fledglings speak up to announce the original countries of birth or the clan that Lady Feather stole them from.
Sakura watches all the fuss with a frown on her face. She gets to her feet and plants her small fists against her hips. "What are you waiting for? Kill her?" she demands of Eremi and Atsuro. Instead, the first one just steps on Lady Feather's hand and the latter puts a sword to the old woman's throat. That's not very satisfying. Lady Feather groaning loudly from the pressure on her hand, so she's definitely not dead and still aware. "Get out of my way!" Sakura exclaims. "I have to do everything if I want it done right!" The scarves wafting around her small frame lashes forward like a dozen striking snakes, all hardened enough to rip apart steel. Eremi and Atsuro are near Lady Feather's chest, so the little girl angles the blow for the moaning old woman's lower torso, where she has a clear shot.
Suddenly, a black seal appears on the unconscious Mokuba's head. CONTROL. Puff! In the blink of an eye, the little boy replaces the spot where Lady Feather's lying, so that Eremi's stepping on the unconscious kid's hand instead. Sakura's scarves plunges into her friends stomach and rips Mokuba wide open. Blood splashes everywhere to form a stark red against white snow. The little girl staggers back and starts to scream in horror, a sentiment echoed all around by other Fledglings.
Puff! Lady Feather's lying where Mokuba used to be. She grabs Sakura's ankle with a wither hand. "Little condition," the crone hisses. Another black seal appears on Sakura's forehead. CONTROL. Then, she uses a preprepared jutsu to rip out Sakura's vital energies with a single thought. As the child's lifeless body crumples, Lady Feather opens her mouth and sucks in Sakura's soul with an expression of ecstasy on her wrinkled face. The villainess sits up, swipes blood from her nose and slaps a hand against the ground. A summoning circle forms. A thunder of wings from the sky heralds the arrival of a giant arctic tern. The huge bird dives towards Lady Feather like an arrow. Before it struck, Lady Feather turns to fact Atsuro and Eremi. "You won here! You took away my three hundred, but I'll have the last word!" she shrieks at them. A moment later, the tern snatches the old woman in its beak and swallows her whole. Puff! The giant bird disappears, unsummoned.
"No!" In just seconds, everything seems to go so wrong. "I need a medic over here now!" The words seem stupid even as Atsuro says them — do either of Mokuba or Sakura even have a chance? "This isn't over!" he yells to Lady Feather, "I hope you enjoy running, because that's how you're going to spend the rest of your life!" And then she's gone. "Profit." He grunts in disgust. "Sakura was right — I should have just killed her the second I got the opportunity. Had to be sure I'd really got her… and it all fell apart." With a dark look on his face, he sheathes his sword. "If any of you can tell me where any of her hideouts are," he calls, "Come here."
The swapping of Lady Feather and Mokuba would cause Eremi to quickly remove his foot. Not like it mattered with what happened next. The sight before him was revolting and made his stomach churn. Through sheer willpower he was able to hold down his own stomach contents. A hard gulp would be given before he pulls out a large gourd from underneath his cloak and chugs the contents for a few moments. When he pulls the gourd away from his mouth, he'd wipe at his lips with a sleeve. "This…Showing mercy was apparently too kind of a gesture." Shaking his head, he'd turn to face the rest of the fledglings. "Everyone of you know something. Get over here and spill." Poor choice of words. "We can't help you if you don't help us."
The next few minutes is a chaos of motions and sounds. Fledglings and Leaf shinobi alike converge on the on Atsuro and Eremi. The Leaf shinobi stop partway to search the spot where Lady Feather no longer sits, half expecting the flashy disappearance to be some kind of trick. The Fledglings crowd around Mokuba, many of them dropping to their knees to weep.
"Out of the way, please! I'm the medic!" Kenta exclaims as he shoulders through the group. He had stopped searching for Suzume among the rubble when things unexpectedly turned around for the worst. Kenta drops next to Mokuba and places his hands above the little boy. Healing chakra instantly starts pouring into the badly damaged body, but it's clearly too late. The child's torso had been separated from his lower half by Sakura's attack. Kenta keeps his hands in place for a few seconds before he lets them drop and bows his head. The medic-nin's shoulders are trembling uncontrollably.
A few of the Fledglings that have better control of their emotions manage to rip themselves way from Mokuba's body and face the senior Leaf shinobi. One is Ryou and another is the girl with the explosive punch. "This relegates… this relegates so bad…" Ryou mumbles. The large hulk leans into the much smaller girls embrace and closes his eyes briefly. "Mother's terrible when she's angry and she's going to be angry at all of us. She heard what we said. Awww… man… She's going to come for us, you know? We'll have to mark up to her to get her to forgive us… Win that! Mokuba and Sakura died because of her!" Ryou slaps a hand to his face to wipe away his tears. "Listen, guys. I don't know how much time we have. Might not be enough to draw a map. You'll have to remember what I say now." Ryou starts rattling off a list of the hideouts and the description of the surroundings. There are three in the Land of Fire, one in the Land of Hot Water, two in the Land of Water… so on and so forth. It comes pouring out of a grief stricken Ryou in a torrent.
Atsuro draws in a breath, then lets it out slowly. He rests a hand on Kenta's shoulder for a moment. "It was my fault," he says, "I should have just killed her when I had the chance." He looks up and nods to Ryou and the other girl, then he reaches into his pocket, pulling out a pencil and pad. "Anything you can tell me would be useful," he says. He writes quickly, making sure to note it all down — he wasn't planning to let Lady Feather get away with any of this before, and he's /not/ going to let her escape justice just because of a missed word. The regret is fresh and painful, but he's going to see this through to the end.
Eremi had already known there was nothing Kenta could have done for Mokuba, but respects the kid for trying. Once Ryou shares what information he could and seeing Atsuro jotting down as fast as he can, Eremi still had some more questions. "What happens next then. Do you have to go back to your Mother? Can't you just run away as far as you can to ensure your safety? The seals must have a range." Though they probably didn't. Eremi knew nothing about anything that didn't involve punching something. "It just seems like returning to her would guarantee your death." Glancing about the rest of the Leaf Shinobi gathered. "Can no one here counter these seals?" Sure they were able to save a village, but there were still so many lives left right in front of them that needed help.
"Here," the girl with explosive techniques say. She nudges a few of the Fledglings aside to bend over Mokuba's body. The bottom half that was ripped off, to be exact. She reaches for a pouch tied to the child's belt with trembling fingers. It takes the girl three tries to undo the bindings and withdraw a familiar silvery orb from it. Then, she steps away to allow her mourning siblings to close the gap again.
"Take this," the girls says in a roughened voice and holds the blood smeared orb out. Either Atsuro or Eremi are free to take it. "Mokuba's dead, so Mother won't worry about this one. It's linked to a big sensing orb that she brings with her to every hideout we go to. When the connection snaps, the orb flashes a symbol and she knows which of us to summon back to the latest hideout. I don't know the specifics, but maybe your people can figure out how to turn this into a tracking device. It's your best hope to narrow down where we are in that list. I -wish- that we can break free of the curse seals, but it's not possible. I think Natsumi's secretly working on something. She's the best at seals, but even she doesn't know some of the things that Mother does. Where did Natsumi go any-" The girl suddenly stiffens. -All- the Fledglings stiffen. Mokuba's orb drops onto a soft bank of bloodied snow.
A black seal labeled CONTROL appears on every one of the youngster's foreheads en mass. Ryou in particular makes a strangled sound, but couldn't force his limbs to move. Then, summoning symbols appear under each of the Fledglings. Puff! Puff! Puff! Puff! Within seconds, all of them have disappeared. Only Sakura and Mokuba are left behind. And later on, the Leaf shinobi will find that a third Fledgling also escaped the fate. Suzume's broken corpse lies under rubble.
"The Uzumaki girl? She — " Atsuro stops as the seal activates again. "Achievement!" Knowing that he only has a spare second, he says, "I'm coming for you." Then, just like Lady Feather herself, they disappear. "Mission accomplished," he says with a sigh, "Sorta. Thanks for your help, everyone." He turns around and starts to walk out of the square. Then he stops and comes back to pick up the orb from the snow. He glances at Mokuba and Sakura's lifeless bodies, then puts it in his pocket, along with the information the Fledglings gave him. "I need someone to clean up the bodies, and someone to get the villagers back. After that, we can head home."
The Fledgelings would start to disappear and Eremi would instinctively reach out to grab a hold of one. Fingers would barely manage to brush against the sleeve of the nearest one before they're gone. "Fortune…" Kicking at the snow before turning to face Atsuro. The mission accomplished statement wasn't comforting, but he'd nod his head in response, "I'll get the villagers. I need to walk away from this anyways." And with that, Eremi would head off.
There's a tired chorus of voices from the Leaf shinobi under Atsuro's command. The mission was technically a success. Their most important goal was to save the villages, with Lady Feather's capture or death being a secondary goal. A very important secondary goal, but still. At least the villagers are safe, even though large parts of the village was damaged in all the fighting. Smashed homes. Melted homes. Blasted ground. Exploded sheds. It's a wonder that only three lives were lost, all on the enemy's side. Some of the Leaf shinobi did suffer serious wounds. The ones that did head off to get checked out by a still shaken Kenta. The dome over the village is starting to die out, so once it's gone and the damage to the place is mitigated to some extent, they'll be able to call the real villagers home again. The search for Lady Feather will go on…