Date: January 31, 2015
After Atsuro makes his decision to travel to the Temple of Embers to speak to old monk Shizukesa about the Immortality Scroll, he gathers a team of Leaf shinobi to accompany him - Taizen, Hige, Konsho, Takeo and Kenta. The group realizes that something's wrong right before the temple appears, since they smell smoke and blood in the air. They soon come upon a ghastly sight of the Temple of Embers on flames and partially collapsed. Most of the monks are dead with the survivors defending the place against three enormous eagle-like birds the size of a hut. The Leaf shinobi quickly joins the battle. Atsuro and Taizen fend off one of the birds, but is unable to completely prevent friendly casualties. Takeo takes down another bird and uses his water ninjutsu to extinguish flames. Kenta tends to injured monks while Hige and Konsho defends him. The two Genin eventually manages to take down the third giant bird. Later on, Atsuro and Hige learn that old monk Shizukesa disappeared into the the maze of tunnels beneath the Temple of Embers that lead to the forbidden repositories. The two of them find more dead monks underground and eventually come upon a dying Shizukesa. The elderly monk uses Mind Body techniques to transplant vital information into Atsuro's mind before he dies. Lady Feather had somehow managed to obtain immortality despite Konoha's efforts and the only hope lies in a poison made with her own flesh, blood or hair that will temporarily nullify her new powers. The Leaf shinobi help the surviving monks throughout the night before they return to Konoha.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"This Immortal Coil - Fowl Feathered Foes"
Land of Fire - Temple of Embers
After months of trying to stem the damage caused by Lady Feather's criminal activities throughout several countries and capture her before more harm is done, the shinobi of Konoha are heading back to where it all started. The Temple of Embers, a small establishment of monks near the Adzuki Creek. A place that serves as a high security repository for secret jutsu and knowledge that shouldn't see the light of day.
The team that the Hidden Village in the Leaves sent consists of half the original members in that very first mission so long ago: Atsuro the leader, Taizen the loyal ninken and Kenta the medic. Tsukino is missing from the group, but three have been sent to replace her this time: Takeo the infamous Three-Tailed Jinchuuriki, Hige the new student of Atsuro and Konsho the cutest of ninken. Their mission, to find out more about the Immortality Jutsu that Lady Feather stole and may have succeeded using. As the Jounin that handled the case from the start, Atsuro has determined that knowing the weaknesses of the jutsu is crucial to defeating the devious woman that had caused so much harm.
So, now at the very end of Feburary in the year 12 A.F, five figures hurry towards their destination as quickly as possible, since time is of the essence. Morning ran at turned pathways into mud and made tree branches slick. While the sun is out now, traveling is still unpleasant and the shinobi team is bound to be tired by the time they reach the Temple of Embers. Another fifteen minutes and they may be able to rest their feet with a hot cup of tea and a knowledgeable monk exposing the secrets that they wish to know.
As usual, a long and tiring journey doesn't seem to be affecting Atsuro. It's not just that he's used to them — more that he knows what's at stake here, and he doesn't want to risk a single thing due to sloppiness. So he and Taizen have been able to keep a good pace going with few signs of actually being tired, even as they reach the end of the journey. He's less interested in the tea and more the knowledge.
"We're almost there," Atsuro announces, "And then we're going to get some answers." Taizen woofs in encouragement. Atsuro does quicken his pace just a little though. After all, if Lady Feather targeted this place once, she can target it again. And even if the monks have some formidable defenses, Lady Feather is certainly skilled in deception.
Infamous? Has Takeo really developed that sort of reputation? In any case, he's happily unaware of such things, and the circumstances of the moment demand his full attention. The situation with the stolen jutsu necessitated a request for his help, and so the Three Tails obliges, joining his mate and team to head for the temple. The climate of the morning doesn't particularly bother him, given his unique affinity for water. Takeo kindly helps the others at times by drying the mud or drawing the water from their skin.
"So, I didn't exactly have much time to get briefed. The witch has used the jutsu," he queries, "and we're going back to the temple to figure out how to get around that?" Comprehension aside, Takeo's keeping up with a Jinchuuriki's stamina and doing his level best to make it simpler for his companions. Where they're water, he's in control.
Hige had been blindly ignorant of pretty much all that had happened so far with this, being just a little Genin and all. Until he was brought on board and filled in at least. He has no qualms about joining the team and as they make their way to the temple he and Konsho do their best to keep up. At least it seems like all that constant training is paying off since, sure, they're a little tired by the time they get close but they haven't fallen off at all. It wouldn't do to slow the others down. Konsho, the lazy pup, does have to take a brief respite however and helps weigh Hige down by plopping his big self on the boys head.
Falling back to his normal habit the youngest of the Inuzuka present is completely silent the entirety of the trip. Sure he listens to what the others are saying, attempting to glean as much information as he can, but he doesn't speak a peep himself. He just tries to watch their surroundings with so much at stake.
"Half a day to get here and half a day back. Even if we don't find anything, we won't have wasted too much time," Kenta speaks up. He's positioned in the middle of the group, where he'll be best protected if there's an attack from any direction. The perk of being a medic is such that he's a valuable resource, but it also means that some enemies might try to kill him first to weaken the support for a group. "Ummm… we don't actually know if she succeeded or not, Takeo. Using the jutsu required succeeded within a one-time three day window of opportunity. We stopped her from her achieving her goal when she attacked that village in the Land of Snow on the very first day, but Atsuro-senpai's worried that she might have found an alternative location during the last two. It's really very hard to know for sure…"
Even while the conversation between some of the Leaf shinobi goes on, many of the members begin to notice things at the edge of their senses. The ones with keen noses like the non-Jinchuuriki Inuzuka are the first to detect the disturbance. There's smoke wafting from the direction that they're heading, brought to them on a brisk breeze. The smoke is cloying fresh and acrid, carrying traces of blood, roasted meat and stone dust. Very quickly after that, all of the Leaf shinobi can see smoke through the trees, where it smudges the sky a small ways into the distance. A thin black cloud of it raises into the air, too dark to be from a casual bonfire or chimney. In fact, Atsuro's sharp eyes could detect little specks wheeling through the air around the cloud of smoke. The specks constantly swoop low enough to be blocked from sight by the treeline, only to soar back upwards. They seem to be carrying and dropping things.
"Uh oh." Atsuro sniffs, and shortly afterwards, Taizen does too. Those scents and those specks in the air are exactly what Atsuro didn't want to see. His worst fears have been confirmed. "She's attacked the monastery!" Atsuro exclaims, "We need to get there NOW! Move move move move move!" Even as he and Taizen quicken their pace, Taizen tosses ahead a pair of swords to Atsuro. They bound through the trees faster. "Linkit," Atsuro mutters angrily to himself, "How can we be too late?" When he catchs up to Lady Feather, she's going to die painfully.
Takeo sees no reason to not make small talk on a long journey. "So, I notice you're still not wearing the engagement talisman," he mentions to Atsuro. "I thought you'd at least put it on for my eighteenth birthday. Which you missed." Not that he's rubbing anything(s) in. Naturally, responsibility intervenes at the worst time, as it /always/ does.
Having been robbed of the senses he was born worth, he doesn't pick up on the smell as quickly as the Inuzuka on the team. However, he grasps what the panic is once he sees the smoke on the horizon. "Could be that she thought of our next move before we did. She went to the temple to make certain that the last source of information on the jutsu's destroyed. If that's so, she might well have completed it."
Hige trails the rest of the group more for security purposes than anything else. Gotta keep up that formation after all. The scents come to him before the smoke is visible and the boy narrows his eyes as he raises his nose, trying to get a feel for the direction. Right, the one they're going in. As things naturally speed up when the group figures out what's going on he keeps pace while not forsaking his duty of watching their surroundings. There could very well be some kind of ambush if they expect the Konoha nin might try and come back. Konsho hops off of Hige when he smells the smoke and begins looking about as serious as he's ever been, helping his companion keep guard on their way to what is likely not going to be a pretty sight by the sights and smells.
Kenta's eyes widen with alarm. He couldn't smell blood and death like the Inuzuka with working noses can, but it's easy to interpret the smoke in the distance and what the specks must be. He instantly arrives at the same conclusion as Atsuro and Takeo does. "Oh, no! Not again! We can't let the same thing happen as last time!" the young medic-nin exclaims. He puts on a burst of speed to keep up with the rest of the team. Kenta's carrying less equipment than he usually does, due to the short distance and the need for speed, but now it might turn out to be an error. If there are injuried people up ahead, he might lack some of the equipment to save them. The thought makes Kenta's expression twist in fear.
Eight minutes. Five minutes. Two minutes. The team finally bursts out of the woods and into the grassland surrounding Adzuki Creek. The sight that instantly greets them is a horrifying one. The Temple of Embers had never been a big place. It's about the size of a small mansion, built with scented woods in ornate colors of gold and red. The bulk of the temple is underground due to the secret repositories. Now, the entire place is up in flames. Raging fire is consuming the wood at an alarming rate. The parts of the building that's not burning already has collapsed. The outer walls are knocked down, exposing the torn up inner courtyard and gardens. There's even a gaping hole where the temple stairs used to be, with debris scattered outwards from the edges, as if something had exploded upwards through the ground. Bodies of dead monks lie everywhere. Some are burned black. Others are crushed or eviscerated. The creek itself is dark with ash and filled with floating bodies.
The specks that they saw earlier are three giant birds, each one the size of a small house. The enormous avians scream piercingly as they seek to reduce the Temple of Embers to a smear in the earth. Two of the birds keep swooping down to grab people or pieces of rubble, which they fling against the standing portions of the Temple after hoisting their burden into the air. The crash-bang thunder of heavy stones smashing into the foundations of the Temple is a terrifying sound. The third bird uses its wings to stir up a storm of wind to fan the growing flames.
Despite all the damage done to the place, the Leaf shinobi had arrived before all the inhabitants are killed. Monks swarm over the temple grounds in an attempt to defend their homes. Most of the monks wield quarterstaves or slings. Neither's much use against the giant birds. Many of the monks trained in ninjutsu manage to slow the attack with powerful barriers and returning blasts of chakra, but it's quickly clear that none of the defenders have enough offensive power to persevere. The monks will all be dead soon without help.
As bad as the situation looks, there are still monks alive, and that means there's still a chance. Atsuro immediately begins calling out orders. "Takeo, put out that fire! Use the creek for water if you need it! Kenta, search for injured monks and help them! Hige, Konsho, protect Kenta — if one of those birds comes by, hit it with Tsuga or Gatsuga! Tai and I will help defend the temple itself! They need our help, everyone! Let's go!"
Orders given, he and Taizen run ahead to join the main group of monks defending the temple. "We're from Konoha," Atsuro calls, "We're here to help!" With that, he and Taizen ready themselves to attack, watching the three birds for an opportunity to strike — be it a bird who's swooping down and exposing themselves to attack, or one who's flying within range of a Tsuga.
Takeo closes his eyes and taes a breath as he positions himself before the temple. There's the sense, for those who can feel such things, of strange chakra emerging from /within/ him. However, nothing's changed other than when he opens his eyes, which have now turned red with black sclera. Takeo curls his clawed fingers inward and slashes from side to side, as if to strike at the sky above the temple.
Sure enough, water is somehow drawn from the air in apparent response to the Jinchuuriki's motions. He releases it after he gauges that enough has gathered, unleashing an artificial rain shower upon the burning temple. Takeo then advances as he forms a sphere of water over one hand, which he occasionally uses to lash out at and smother independent flames he comes across inside the temple proper. This is one situation where he can actually be useful!
"If you're alive, say something," Takeo says as he moves through the structure, extinguishing flames with a whipping extension of the water sphere. "We're from Konoha, here to help." He's wary still that the temple may not have been evacuated by the assailant, so he's watchful, and not just for survivors.
When the group arrives Hige is stone faced. Have to be for all the destruction and death that currently litters the entirety of the grounds. As Atsuro gives out orders the silent Inuzuka nods in the affirmative before he and Konsho join Kenta and prepare to follow wherever he might go. A kunai is in one hand just in case something comes close enough for such a ranged attack, but both the boy and his ninken are ready with their known techniques to defend Kenta at all costs. Med nin and the rare friend, better believe they're going to be watching out.
Kenta doesn't need to be told twice. The first thought in his head is already to help the injured. There's a horrific number of those. Some of the monks that appeared dead at first are actually still alive. Crushed limbs. Compound fractures. Coughing up blood. Writhing from burn wounds. Kenta turns this way and that in distress, trying to figure out who he should go to first. Finally, he notices a section of the damaged courtyard where several monks had raised a canopy of hardened chakra. Other monks are running out to retrieved injured comrades while the majority of the defenders fend off the birds. A few individuals trained in medicine are applying field medicine to the injured there.
"Over here!" Kenta tells Hige and Konsho as he starts running towards the medic area. "Let us through! We're shinobi from Konoha! We sent you a message about our arrivals last night!" he exclaims. Luckily, the monks protecting that section of the courtyard recognizes the Leaf shinobi's uniform and quickly step aside to let them do their work.
The house-sized birds attacking the Temple quickly notices the arrival of the Leaf shinobi. They must have been appraised about the danger that those from Konoha might pose, since there's an instant reaction among them. One of the birds, a magnificent avian with chocolate brown feathers and a decidedly eagle-like head, screeches out a scream of challenge. It had just lifted another boulder into the air in its massive talons and the Jounin of the team provide excellent new targets. The bird's wings blot out the sun as it soars directly overhead. A second later, there's an elephant size chunk of rock tumbling out of the sky to crush Atsuro and Taizen. Moments after that, the bird swoops down at them. The wind of its passage knocks down several sling wielding monks that had started to gather around the Jounin.
Takeo is met by a similar challenge where he's putting out fires. The bird fanning the flames, which has steel grey feathers, fans its wings hard to blow away much of the water that Takeo is sending down as rain over the burning structure. The creature snaps its beak with an aggressive CRACK. The sound startles an adolescent acolyte, who had just managed to crawl out from some rubble thanks to Takeo's help. The acolyte goes sprawling at Takeo's feet and is flung through the air with a terrified scream moments later, when the bird aims a blast of wind to knock down the Jinchuuriki.
Having sheltered under the most heavily defended section of the courtyard, Hige and Kenta are in a better position than the rest of the team. "Don't let it through!" one of the defending monks yells as he rally his brothers to send another volley of chakra bolts at the final bird. The creature swoops soars out of reach in an almost contemptuous manner, catching sunlight on its burnished copper pinions. It snatches up a broken wooden beam from the wreckage nearby and tosses it down into the crowd, directly towards Hige and Konsho.
As the boulder falls on Atsuro, he raises the hilt of both the swords he's holding while Taizen backs away. The boulder lands right on top of Atsuro. But just when it seems like he's been crushed, the huge piece of rubble wobbles and lifts to reveal Atsuro standing beneath it, holding it up with the pommels. He heaves the boulder aside, away from Taizen and the monks that have gathered to support them.
He tosses his blades aside and Taizen throws him a larger nodachi as the bird comes in close. While the monks are scattered, Atsuro charges right back at the bird, matching its wind with a storm of seemlingly inescapable slashes.
Takeo has had about enough of that gigantic bird fanning the flames of every fire he tries to put out, to say nothing of ruining the rain shower he'd invented. He'd love nothing more than to fully transform and deal with the issue that way, but the surviving monks are already panicked enough without a Bijuu manifesting. Instead, after focusing yet more of that inner chakra, he is bathed in a bubbling blue cloak of chakra. Two large tails unfurl behind him, and he now opens only one eye, still black and red. His hair strains against its topknotted state to grow.
The steel grey bird must be close to the roof if the building, if he's close enough that his wings can buffet the flames. The Jinchuuriki thrusts his index and middle finger at said portion of the structure, causing a splash of water followed by an almost instanteous thrust of coral spikes to shoot straight up at the avian. With any luck, they'll be tall enough to pierce flesh and bone.
Takeo's attention is drawn by the shouting of the monks, but he sees the beam of wood being hurled at his allies before he sees the source. He turns and darts aside and in front of the two, thrusting his fingers into the air before himself. Water once again forms from nothingness, forming a mirrorlike barrier.
While waiting for Kenta to decide where they're going Hige and Konsho both watch the birds carefully. When the medic picks a location the young Inuzuka nods and follows after. Konsho keeps step with Kenta as his guard while Hige remains a few steps behind to keep an extra watchful eye about. Once they arrive where the injured are Hige and Konsho turn most of their attention to the skies, standing at the edge of the protective barrier to keep anything from sneaking around it. Sometimes just having a pup isn't a huge help though. Wordlessly Hige drops on all fours and Konsho hops on his back. In an instant there is now one less pup and one more Hige. The world is doomed. That done the two watch the skies and their friends.
And then the birds start throwing Ruto around all willy nilly. "Watch out!" One of the boys calls to those nearby before springing up. The bird would still be a tad too high but, well, with the help of a handy piece of wood they can use that to lunge at the creature and try to hit it from both sides with a nice little spinning claw attack. It can't attack Kenta if they're keeping it distracted, right? Hopefully…
Some of the monks surrounding Atsuro doesn't scramble away in time. The impending doom by boulder causes several of them to freeze in shock. When Atsuro stops and tosses the boulder away, it reveals half a dozen of the shaken-head men sprawled around his feet with their arms raised protectively over their head. They gape at the raw strength that the Leaf Jounin display, likely having never seen the like before. A chorus of voices raise up around him. "Impossible!" "He saved us!" "This is our chance! Counterattack!" Now, two dozen monks dashes back in or surges to their feet. A flurry of hard-flung sling stones, staff thrusts and even a jump kick from the monks accompany Atsuro's retaliation against the chocolate feathered behemoth of a bird. Their opponent squawks in sudden surprise and flaps backwards when it finds bleeding wounds suddenly pepper it's legs. WHOMP! A hard stroke of its wings knock down most of the monks again and it flies upwards out of reach. Head-sized drops of blood rain down on the men below.
A moment later, a scream comes from the direction of the burning temple. After failing to bludgeon Takeo to death with a storm of wind-blown debris, the steel-feathered bird started to circle the Jinchurriki. Takeo's well timed attack spears it through one wing with a thrust of razor coral just as it moves over a still standing section of the roof. The creature struggles frantically to stay in the air, but all its movements only tears open it's injured wing even more. It tumbles out of the sky and into the flaming edifice. CRASH! An entire section of the weakened temple caves in from the force of the collision. Smoke and dust rises from the hole to obscure the creature from sight.
At the protected portion of the courtyard, the wooden beam tossed by the copper feathered bird narrowly misses Hige. It bounces off the sheet of mirror like water that Takeo raised a moment later and hits the canopy of chakra that several monks are upholding. The men cry out in strain, but that barrier also holds. The beam ricochets of and crushes two of the defenders that start rushing towards the avian.
Unfortunately, the copper-feathered bird has better luck evading the counterattack. It wings sideways out of Hige and Konsho's reach, then up to avoid a barrage of ninjutsu attacks, before landing directly on the protective canopy of chakra to start bashing away at it. The barrier starts to crack.
Out of reach? For Atsuro's sword, maybe, but not Atsuro himself! Once again, he drops his sword, then he and Taizen move in unison. The bird is quickly leaving their range, but it's also made a mistake by leaving behind a huge boulder. A pair of streaks, Atsuro and Taizen jump from the ground to the boulder, then from the raised surface of the boulder up into the air after the bird. When their momentum stops carrying them upwards, they start to spin, launching themselves at the bird as they spiral through the air, aiming to smash into their feathered foe.
Takeo blinks once as the mirror is struck and then dissipates. He hadn't expected the wood to bounce off, but to shatter. What's worse, though his coral bloom did bring the great bird down from the sky, it inflicted damage upon the temple he'd preferred to have avoid. Everything the young man's doing is a disaster at the moment.
After having defended Hige and Kenta to the best of his ability, the Jinchuuriki makes a single hand sign. Water forms from the air and shapes itself into a lance, which then launches off toward the copper-feathered bird, working in tandem with Atsuro and Taizen to hopefully eliminate one more threat.
Swing and a miss! Hige and Konsho meet in the middle but there's no creamy bird filling so the two push off of eachother before heading back down. Nabooru bird. The boy himself dives right past the lance, landing heavily on the ground before rushing under the barrier and reaching for Kenta. "Kenta! We need to move!" He is supposed to protect the medic after all. It would rather suck for the other monks though. Hopefully if the leaf shinobi aren't there though then the bird will leave the injured people alone. He tries to drag the med-nin out from under where the bird is pecking at the shield and, barring that, he'll just stand defensively over the medic with a kunai.
The /other/ Hige, really Konsho, has his own path after they come out of the sky and he aims right for the bird again. This time he's by himself so the attack isn't quite so aggressive but still it might help to distract the creature if nothing else. He spins again as he nears and tries to drill into the giant turkey.
The twin twisters of Atsuro and Taizen whirl through the air with all the fury of Inuzuka riled. The chocolate-colored bird is slowed down due to it's injures, but not defeated yet. When it catches sight of the two Jounin's coordinated attacks, it doesn't try to soar further up into the air, which would have required more effort. Instead, the bird folds it's wings and dives like a streaking arrow. Atsuro and Taizen whistles right over the bird's head. The monks supporting the two Jounin scream and scatter again from the sight of the bird's huge bulk tumbling towards them. To everyone's surprise, it lands on the boulder with bleeding talons and uses the boulder to launch back up again at a forty five degree angle, instead of slam into the ground. Wings thunder loudly. The gigantic avian heaves itself into the sky with mighty effort. Then, it flaps it's wings once more and hurls a barrage of razor sharp feathers into the mass of defenders.
Meanwhile, the other remaining bird is still pecking away at the barrier hanging over the triage area. Bang! BANG! The barrier cracks heavily and the monks maintaining it are driven to their knees completely. "I can't leave the injured!" Kenta screams to Hige when the Genin tries to get him to leave. The Konoha medic-nin had just finished applying emergency first aid to an adolescent boy that nearly bleed out from a severed hand. His head snaps up to watch the spreading cracks in the barrier and his eyes widen. If that bird gets through, the injured will surely be killed. Kenta jumps to his feet while rapidly weaving hand signs and chains of black seal characters ripple out of him to form a second barrier right under the first one.
Thump! Moments after Kenta's barrier takes effect, Takeo's water lance smashes into the bird. Konsho strikes at the exact same time. Either alone might have been too weak, but there's enough force behind the two attacks combined that the copper-feathered bird isn't able to soak all of it with its bulky body. The bird skids completely off the barrier with a raptorial hiss of pain. It lands on uneven ground with tree-trunk thick talons, which also causes to stagger ungainly back a few steps. The creature hisses again, now with irritation and snaps a massive beak at the closest offender, which just happens to be Konsho.
Takeo bares his teeth as he watches the copper-hued bird go down, revealing that his already pronounced canines are larger still with the twin tails in effect. He looks rather more animalistic than usual in this state. "Good," the young man says. "That's two out of the air. Maybe now, I can stop the fire before the whole place goes down." Takeo ceases his efforts to protect Kenta and Hige in favor of charging back toward the building.
As Takeo runs, he holds his claws splayed and curled behind him. They seem to rake water from the air, which they then hurl forward in arcs at the fiery blaze engulfing the temple. Again, he brings water down from the sky, as well. The fire is his foe now, and he's pulling all the water that he can from the air to tame it. Indeed, he knows jutsu which could more quickly do the job, but the sanctum of the monks would be laid to waste in the process. Fortunate that mastery over the Bijuu keeps him in his right mind at moments such as these.
With a curse, Atsuro lands back on the ground, followed shortly by Taizen. Spotting the bird swooping down again, Atsuro rushes over to the ninjato he discarded earlier, grabbing them both up. Somehow predicting where the bird intends to go, he leaps up onto the boulder, ducking as the bird comes down and pushes itself off. Strangely, he makes no apparent attempt at attacking the bird as it leaves ground again, but when the feathers are fired down, he jumps off the boulder, into their path, using his swords to slap them off target before he hits the ground again, landing in a crouch.
Up in the sky, the silhouette of a person can be seen on the great bird's back. Holding the two swords into an underhand position, this lone warrior, jumps from the bird's back, twisting around in the air and using the gravity of his fall in an attempt to drive the swords into the bird's flesh before letting go and falling back to earth, disappearing in a puff of smoke when he lands.
Zeldait Kenta! Hige lets out a low, feral growl at the medic nin but, in the end, leaves him be. Kenta might be small but Hige is…smaller. The boy leaves the medic for now and goes outside the two erected barriers to rejoin Konsho. Sorry monks, hopefully a small boy won't break the shield because he hops on top of it to get around and join his ninken.
Konsho has dodged the beak and does a very dog-like tongue sticking out at the bird. Well, it really looks like Hige sticking out his tongue but…anyways. The cloned pup lands next to his companion on the shield and together they face off against the bird again. Not hesitating they run forward, Hige throwing out a pair of kunai to try and distract the saria'd thing before they split up again to try and fulfill their dreams of bird filling.
Atsuro's clone nearly manages to spear the chocolate-feathered avian, but the wily thing manages to prevent the deathblow. It rolls quickly in the air, causing the clone to unbalance and for the tip of the ninjato to skid along the shaft of a feather instead of pierce flesh. The bird only has a mild scratch on its back when the clone drops off and disappears in a puff of smoke. The instance that it's flying in the proper position again, it sends another flurry of razor sharp feathers at the defending group that Atsuro and Taizen are part of. One of the monks go down in a spray of blood and several boulders shatter from the fury of the attack.
Due to luck or coordination, Hige and Konsho catches the copper-feathered bird off guard again. The second avian monster manages to take the two kunai hits without injury by fluffing up its tough feathers. It's ungainly on the ground and couldn't dodge quite as well as its remaining windborne sibling. The bird rears up to take off into the air again. One of its wings brush up against the newly reinforced barrier. Then, Hige and Konsho's Gatsuga takes the bird right in the face. Puff! It disappears in a puff of smoke, unsummoned back to its original habitat.
"This ralphin' bird." Atsuro grits his teeth. Once again, he jumps up to meet the stream of feathers, batting away as many of the feathers as he can to protect those on the ground. He lands again and sets his swords down once more. Taizen comes to his side. "We are taking this son of a Ganondorf Dragmire DOWN," he tells the dog, "C'mon!" They jump up to the boulder again and launch themselves off of it at the bird. "All of you get out of here," Atsuro yells to the monks before he uses his jutsu, "Find cover; we'll finish it off!" As before, they rotate as they move through the air, aiming to hit the bird like twin drills. This time, they come back for another pass to hopefully put the stamp on this thing for good.
Hige's ears practically twitch as he hears ojii-san's words in those Inuzuka ears of his. If it weren't such a bad situation he might feint. But it /is/ a bad situation and just because the bird he was dealing with is gone doesn't mean the danger is over yet! Hige and Konsho hop up onto the shield again and look up at the last bird as Atsuro goes at it once again. It's too far away for him to be able to lend any real assistance with his own abilities, but if nothing else he can try and distract it for Atsuro! Both Hige's pull out a kunai and fling it at the bird to try and herd it into the impending Gatsuga's.
With that done the boy drops down again and Konsho turns back into himself. They're fairly certain that ojii-san can handle the last bird well enough without them. No, Hige has something else important he needs to do. As he reaches Kenta he draws his hand back and smacks him upside the head for being stubborn, letting out another growl before crouching. "How can I help?"
The chocolate-colored bird takes only a few seconds to realize that it's remaining companion had been banished. It's difficult not to notice that a creature the size of a hut is suddenly missing. Mental gears whirl and it realizes that it's now outnumbered by the newcomers that it had been warned of before the assault. In its sudden distraction, the injured bird misses seeing Atsuro and Taizen spinning through the air. It's struck hard enough that it's hurled through the air, but luckily twists away from a second Gatsuga and the kunai thrown by the younger pair of Inuzuka. This feathered foe only had a split second to launch a retaliation before it also disappears in a puff of smoke. Wind blasts out from where it had flown, flinging corpses and smaller pieces of debris at the Jounin.
Meanwhile, Kenta's frowning up at Hige. "Please don't distract me like that," he says, referring to the smack on his head. "You're going to get someone killed." He glances down at the monk that he's treating, who's breathing causes bubbles of blood to leak from nostrils and mouth. The medic-nin still has his hands positioned over the injured monk's chest, no doubt fixing some kind of lung injury. As for how Hige can help… Kenta's face twists in worry. "I can't leave these people's side. So many of them are on the brink. One of the seniors told me that Old Monk Shizukesa was underground when the attack occurred. He's the only one that knows the details in the Immortality Scroll. You have to help Atsuro'senpai find him."
Atsuro and Taizen dash behind the first boulder dropped by the large bird, shielding them from the final attack. After the attack is done, Atsuro peeks out from behind the boulder to see where the bird went. Only to realize that it's totally gone. "I think we beat it," he tells Taizen. The two take a second to sniff the air, then they're satisfied that the bird is indeed gone. Thanks to Takeo, the fire has been taken care of. Atsuro looks around and spots Kenta. They jog over.
"We think we got them all," Atsuro says, "What's the situation?"
"Wouldn't be able to help them if you let yourself get hurt either," the young Inuzuka reminds Kenta. Hige looks down to the man Kenta's currently working on before running a hand through his hair. Impa those birds and impa whoever sent them straight to the depths of a rauru where Eremi reigns. When Kenta gives him details of the Old Monkthe boy nods quickly before standing. He looks around and spots a monk that is helping with the injured and goes to crouch next to the man. "Watch out for Kenta. If anything else shows up you come and find me right away. If he gets hurt I won't be happy." He gives the man an evil fanged smile before he stands and motions to Konsho.
The pair meets up with Atsuro about half way back and motions to the decimated building, "Ojii! Kenta said the Old Monk is missing and he was underground when the attack started. We need to find him. Apparently he's the only one that knows the details we're looking for." He explains quickly, then turns to start jogging towards the building and looking for a way down without waiting to hear what Atsuro might have to say.
The attackers may be defeated, but the entire places is a mess. The Temple of Embers is no longer burning thanks to Takeo's work. Yet, it's so badly damaged that the remnants will probably have to be torn down anyway before rebuilding can occur. More of the courtyard and garden had been destroyed in the battle. The ground is a mess of shattered rock, churned dirt and even blobs of flesh left behind by corpses that got blown apart. Some of those corpses hadn't been entirely dead when they were struck either. Only half of all the remaining monks that were still defending the temple when the Leaf shinobi arrived survived. Some of them collapsed where they stand from exhaustion, but the majority are laboriously dragging themselves over to the triage area to either get treatment from Kenta or help tend the most injured.
Hige doesn't have to travel far to find a way down. The temple had collapsed to a degree that it's impossible to get inside through normal means. Fortunately, the massive hole front of the temple steps prove to lead down to the basement. Rubble had piled up in the center of the hole, but still leaves enough space around it for even someone of Atsuro's size to scuttle into the tunnels themselves.
"Alright," says Atsuro, "Let's get going." He takes a moment to look around. There's an awful lot of hurt monks around here. "Tai," he says, turning to Taizen, "search for anyone who's hurt and help bring them back to Kenta. If you run into Takeo, ask him to help too. We have a lot of people in bad condition." Taizen woofs acknowledgement and runs off to search the rubble.
Atsuro hurries after Hige and over to the path down to the basement. "God, I really hope he's alive," he says. He squeezes past the pile of rubble into the basement and starts smelling around for signs of life.
Too bad Konsho is too small to really help out with normal sized people. Well, short of Hige using chakra to turn him back into another Hige but between the trip and the fighting he's a little too tired to hold something like that up. So instead the pup follows Atsuro and Hige day into the rubble, lending his nose, ears, and sight to the searching. Hige frowns as he looks around at the destruction wrought and takes a few sniffs in the air before calling out, "Hello? Anyone down here?" Seems like the easiest thing to do right? Unless someone's knocked out or, you know, dead. He keeps his ears open as he slowly starts walking after Atsuro, letting ojii-san use that nose of his.
Out of the small group of three scouts, only Atsuro has been in the tunnels under the Temple of Embers before. Back then, it was a confusing maze of claustrophobic twists and turns, often with dead ends or sections blocked off by barrier jutsu. The place had also smelled heavily of dust and incense. Now, all the barriers are down. Atsuro, Hige and Konsho don't even come upon a single one as they search for old monk Shizukesa. The sturdy stone of the tunnels are cracked from the battles above and maybe from battles below. There are corpses down here too, which explains the smell of death that keeps invading the Inuzuka's nose, even though the smell isn't as strong as it us above ground. Many of the torches and bundles of incense are also burned out or knocked off their stands, making the tunnels an even harder place to navigate due to the dimness. Eventually, Atsuro smells a familiar scent. Shizukesa. And a -lot- of fresh blood.
Even in this low light, Atsuro seems to navigate the tunnels as if he's being led. He is, however, simply going wherever the corridors lead him, relying on his keen senses to help him move under the conditions. He sighs as he walks by the corpse of a monk. "We'll have to search the rest of this place for anyone who needs help," he says, "I hope some of the monks can help; Kenta can't do this all on his own." Then there's the alarming scents of blood and Shizukesa. "Oh no," Atsuro says, quickening his pace as he follows the scents.
Hige grabs a torch at one point as they go and find fewer and fewer lit along the way. He keeps it at his side so it doesn't directly effect his vision but helps to cast light ahead of them still. Konsho continues sniffing the ground, giving a soft yip before he splits off from the rest to try and find any other survivors. He may not physically be able to help them but he can inform others of their location. "What is it?" Hige asks Atsuro at the words, giving a few quick sniffs before he finally picks it up and follows quickly, raising the torch higher.
The scent of blood and Shizukesa grows steadily stronger. It leads the team spiraling through the tunnels deeper and deeper, until no hint of outside air can be detected at all. The tunnel walls are even more damaged here. Some sections were protective seals used to be inscribed had completely crumbled off, as if they were struck by powerful jutsu. Dust choke the air so thickly that it's nearly impossible to breathe without something shielding one's nose and mouth. Eyes quickly get irritated in this environment.
Suddenly, the small group of Leaf shinobi turns a final corner and find themselves facing one of the famed repositories where secret knowledge is kept. Like the one that Atsuro had seen months ago, this repository is only a small squarish chamber cut into the bedrock, barely larger than most people's bedrooms. The big difference is that most of the contents have been destroyed. Scraps of scroll and torn book pages litter the ground like dirty yellow snow. The shelves that held artifacts and literary material were splintered by some great force. Much of the repository's ceiling had caved in… and an elder monk lies mostly buried under it.
Tons of stone sit on top of Shizukesa's lower half, from the abdomen downwards. Blood pool around him, much of it leaking from nose, mouth and ears. His flesh is pale from blood loss, which is easily seen even in the dim light of the torch that Hige holds. The shadow of impending death hollows out the elder monk's eyes and cheeks. It's a wonder that Shizukesa is still alive. When the dying monk sees the Leaf shinobi, one of his hands weakly make a beckoning gesture. Shizukesa's knuckles drip wetly with his own blood when they lift briefly off the ground.
Atsuro pulls his shirt over his mouth and nose to protect from the dust and keeps going. No matter what has happened, he has to find Shizukesa. He's why they came here in the first place, and he could be the one person who can stop Lady Feather now. His heart is pounding, but it seems to stop as they round the corner and see the fallen monk. "No!" Atsuro pulls the shirt from his mouth and hurries over to kneel by the dying man. For a second, he considers sending Hige to go get Kenta, but taking the medic away from the monks above would only allow more preventable deaths. "If you can tell us anything about the stolen scroll…" he says instead to Shizukesa.
Hige coughs as the air only gets more and more stale and thick with dust and other crap. He covers his mouth and nose with his sleeve and squints his eyes to try and make out what he can. When they come upon the room and the monk the boy blinks in surprise before following Atsuro over. "Darunia it," the younger Inuzuka growls softly as he sees that death is not far from this man, no matter who might be here to help. He holds the torch up so to light Atsuro and the Monk though he again stands to look around. So much damage. What could have caused such destruction on the inside? Had the birds really been able to do so much by dropping things onto the outer shell? Something about this situation doesn't sit well with the boy. But they need this information, /and/ they need to search for survivors. Not. Good.
Shizukesa's gaze is surprisingly strong for a dying man. He looks at Atsuro's stricken face and Hige's unfamiliar features. Lips tremble in an attempt to deliver a reassuring smile to the small group of shinobi. The effort makes the elderly monk cough up blood. His frail body shakes and shakes until it seems like the he'll fall apart at the seams. When the fit is over, the monk's strong eyes had gone almost completely dull. Nevertheless, Shizukesa tries to deliver the information that Konoha needs. His lips move again, only for more blood to bubble out from between them. Laboriously, the elderly monk starts to make hand seals. Each seal is an effort of heroic will. The entire sequence is twelve long, but seems to take an eternity. Finally, Shizukesa lays trembling fingers on Atsuro's forehead.
A burst of white light fills Atsuro's vision. It's quickly followed by a sensation that the Jounin had felt before. Another mind touches his, Shizukesa's. The elderly monk knows the Yamanaka's techniques, perhaps was even one of them before he cut ties to family for religion. Unlike other telepathic messages that Atsuro had experienced in the past, this one is composed completely of images and knowledge.
Atsuro sees how an army of ten giant birds showed up to destroy the Temple of Embers. He sees how many of the monks strongest in ninjutsu had quickly spent themselves to banish several of the birds, only to succumb to others when they became exhausted. He senses how all the protective barriers in the underground tunnels had suddenly blown out. He remembers being Shizukesa himself and running to investigate with a group of senior monks. He sees Lady Feather standing in this exact repository with a scroll in her hands, a forbidden jutsu that allows a user to pull souls back from the Pure World into physical bodies. He remembers caving in the old woman's skull, only to see it heal instantly and without any signs of pain or spilling of blood. Then, so much pain as Lady Feather scatters all the monks with a jutsu of her own. Even more pain fills Atsuro's phantom body when tons of rock comes down on him. Crushing him. Subjecting him to death. But he must hold on. Only he knows the weakness of the type of immortal that Lady Feather had become. He sees the other monks chase after the fleeing old woman, no doubt dying in the line of duty beyond his fading sight. So dark… so cold… Then, a warm point of light blossoms in his eyes. He sees himself, the -real- himself, Atsuro, appear with a fierce young boy by his side. And the final piece. The recipe to a poison that can render Lady Feather's new regenerative powers inert. Lists of ingredients fill his head, many extremely rare, but the most important ingredient of all perhaps the hardest to get. He realizes that the poison requires a piece of Lady Feather herself - blood, flesh or hair.
Shizukesa's fingers slide off Atsuro's forehead, leaving a bloody stain behind. Sentience fades from the elderly monk's eyes. He dies.
"Can you — " Atsuro stops as Shizukesa touches his forehead, his suggestion no longer needed. His fingers are trembling slightly as the vision fades. "Thank you," he manages just before Shizukesa takes his last breath, "We'll stop her, I promise. You've done your part, Shizukesa-san." He stays silent for a moment as the monk's last second of life ticks away, then he get to his feet. Thankfully, he has his pen and pad in his pocket. He writes quickly, listing all the ingredients needed. "She succeeded," says Atsuro, "But we can still stop her. Let's go; we might still be able to help up above." He walks out of the ruined repository, heading back for the exit.
Hige is still looking around when the whole event happens and he doesn't look back until he hears the dying breath. The boy blinks as he sees the blood marks on Atsuro's forehead and his frown deepens, "Ojii…" But Atsuro is already on the move. That almost unsettles the young Inuzuka more than anything else that's happened. Konsho meets up with the pair looking pretty well saddened at whatever he found. He certianly doesn't mention any survivors though and together the pair trails after Atsuro. Once near the entrance Hige returns the torch to it's sconce.
Death above and death below. It'll be years, maybe decades before the Temple of Embers returns to normal. The Leaf shinobi spends the rest of the day helping the survivors. Fires occasionally broke out when shifting rubble exposed previously buried superheated building materials to an influx of oxygen and kickstarted ignition. The sheer amount of times that it happened alone meant that Takeo work alongside the rescue times to douse fires as monks dead, injured and alive are dug out from under the collapsed edifice. Atsuro, Taizen, Hige and Konsho's noses are a major boon in this department. Scent is one of the only reliable ways to detect where survivors might be. The physical strength of the two Jounin also made carrying injured monks easier and safer. Kenta never once leaves the triage area throughout the entire day. The young medic-nin is worked ragged trying to stem the tide of casualties and tears run down his face when he only manages to stabilize two out of every three individuals brought to him.
In the end, the Leaf shinobi end up working well past dark. They camp nearby to get a few hours to sleep before they hurry back to Konoha to carry the news of the Temple of Ember's destruction to the higher ups. The monks are left with a promise of additional help from Konoha, soon to arrive. Medics, guards, engineers and supplies are only one aspect of it. Despite the destruction, the majority of the underground repositories still have undamaged contents. The dangerous materials will have to be carried away to the safe houses of other secret societies and to Konoha's vaults until the Temple of Embers can be rebuilt stronger than ever.
As for the Leaf shinobi that salvaged the situation? They have to prepare for another confrontation with Lady Feather soon.