Date: October 4, 2014
Within the Land of Fire is the Temple of Embers. The monks of the Temple secretly gather and safe keep ancient jutsu from dead clans. Due to the current troubles with the Silence, the monks decided to send their most dangerous materials to Konoha until the threat is over. Atsuro, Taizen, Kenta and Tsukino are assigned to retrieve the materials in what should be an uneventful mission. Things go smoothly until Tsukino identifies that the Temple's greatest prize is a fake. Atsuro and Taizen sniffs out the scents of a few people that accessed the repository less than an hour before the shinobi's arrival. It's soon discovered that the Temple's three newest Initiates, three brothers from Kadomai, are the culprits. The traitors are trapped within the Temple by its defense system when they try to escape with the stolen scroll. The ensuing battle reveals that the "brothers" are actually disguised under a powerful henge technique. One is an Uzumaki girl while the other two is an Inuzuka boy and his ninken. The latter two are recognized by Atsuro as members of his clan that mysteriously disappeared at a very young age during a family trip, now all grown up. The monks and Leaf shinobi manage to apprehend the intruders, but only for a moment. The intruders, along with the stolen scroll, are suddenly removed from custody by an outside force using a human summoning technique. The Temple of Ember's master monk informs the Leaf shinobi that they must find the stolen scroll at all costs. It teaches a powerful kinjutsu, Heavenly Feast of the Pure World, which grants its user immortality by devouring the souls of countless other people.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"This Immortal Coil - Scent from the Past"
Land of Fire - Temple of Embers
As the threat of the Silence looms larger, Konoha isn't the only organization in the Land of Fire that's making preparations. Towns and villages everywhere are making their own preparations. These are usually less elaborate than those of Konoha, but some still require shinobi aid. The Daimyo of Fire is no doubt working closely with the Leaf on many of these endeavours. It shouldn't come as a surprise when the Temple of Embers, a small establishment of monks near the Adzuki Creek, sends a similar request to Konoha.
Atsuro finds himself drafted for the mission and told to pick two dependable shinobi to accompany him. The task is a simple one, but there's a minor chance of low to moderate danger involved. Unknown to most individuals, the scholar monks from the Temple of Embers dedicate themselves to the deciphering and safeguarding scrolls of ancient origins that detail jutsu from bygone clans. A secret underground repository contains the works of generations. Some of the scrolls contain extremely dangerous and forbidden jutsu. Atsuro and his team's task is to retrieve the most dangerous of the scrolls and bring them back to Konoha for safekeeping until the Silence threat is over. The secret work of the monks is known only to a few parties, so it's actually very unlikely that the mission will be an eventful one.
Although he's been keeping the team moving at a rapid pace on the way here, Atsuro slows down as the temple comes into sight. Turning around to face his team, he instructs, "Be on your guards," he says, "We still don't know very much about the Silence's methods. For all we know, they could be watching already." Taizen is already sniffing the air. He and Atsuro share a glance, but don't say anything. "Just keep an eye out," Atsuro reiterates, then turns again and starts marching towards the temple itself.
Tsukino looked more like her usual self. Her hair is nice and flowing down her back freely and her clothing is pretty typical as well, she's still wearing black leggings under her shorts more for modesty than warmth, but all her bruises are healed and her ribs were judged duty-ready when she'd had them rechecked the day before. So here she was out to possibly face the Silence again. Se wasn't the greatest at hiding certain things, so Kenta and Atsuro might notice she seemed a bit nervous like she might startle easier than normal. And Taizen would scent a hint of fear on her, but it wasn't enough to worry too much about. She'd been through a rough week and now facing the people who had taken her the first time would be a bit nerve wracking.
But, along the way she'd managed to find some berries which she quickly picked and shared with Atsuro and Kenta and she'd brought beef jerky to share with Taizen. When the temple came into sight she nodded to Atsuro and gathered herself up, trying to be aware of her surroundings. She wore a backpack with scrolls and ink supplies among other things so that she could seal the tomes they were to collect into scrolls for easier transport. She kept mostly quiet, though her nerves seemed to be forgotten when they got closer to the temple. She'd never seen such a thing before and it made her smile in awe.
Kenta nods his head somberly. He's at his most serious on missions like this. His young face is twisted into a frown. "I hope that this ends up being just a quick retrieval. As much as I have a bone to pick with the Silence for what they did so far, I don't want to run into them. I definitely don't want any top secret material to end up in their hands." The medic-nin quietly checks his equipment to make sure that it's all in place - backpack with provisions, tags in various pockets, medical pack around his waist, additional herbs and pills in belt pouches, kunai sheaths… It'll be a little too late to find out that he's missing something when they get attacked. He takes a deep breath and marches towards the temple with the rest of the team.
The Temple of Embers looks like most of the temples in the Land of Fire. It's barely bigger than a small mansion, but ornately decorated in reds and golds, even the wall that surrounds the main building. Pass the huge double doors is a small courtyard with a minimalistic Japanese garden. Small statues of bodhisattva watch benevolently, sadly or angrily down at passing individuals from various perches. Another pair of eyes also watch the group, but this one is living. As soon as they step inside, an elderly monk walks up to greet them. "Shinobi of the Leaf, I am monk Shizukesa. Welcome to the Temple of Embers."
"We get the goods, then we're gone, and hopefully back to Konoha in time for dinner," Atsuro says, looking forward to the temple in front of them, "If we do run into them, we'll have to play it by ear. Better not to fight them if we can help it, but if we need to in order to get the documents back to the village…" In that spirit, he doesn't look around much as they walk through the temple halls, aside from checking the surrounding alcoves and corridors to make sure that nobody is watching them. At least nobody who shouldn't be.
But then they run into Shizukesa, and it's pretty clear that he should be. Atsuro offers the monk a deep bow. "Hello," he says, "Are you here to lead us the rest of the way, Shizukesa-sama?" He lowers his voice, just in case anyone else is listening in. "You haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary around here?"
Tsukino took in the ornate decorations of the temple. The reds and golds accented each other quite well and gave it a kind of official air to it. The old monk that came to meet then was met with a smile and a bow from Tsukino, but she kept to the back a bit, being the junior most member of this team. So she remained rather quiet as Atsuro dealt with the old monk. Tsukino looked behind them, checking visually for anyone following them before she turned back to look at the old monk again.
Old monk Shizukesa is obviously a jolly type of person. Despite being as gnarled and lean as any monk should be everywhere else, he has substantial girth in the gut area. His round face has many smile lines etched into it around the mouth. In fact, he's smiling now and it causes his face to crinkle up in the most homely of ways. The only hair on his head is his eyebrows, which are long enough to hang down the side of his eyes like white cotton. "There's little to worry about, young man," he tells Atsuro in his surprisingly deep voice. "Nothing strange has happened lately, except that our soy beans are growing twice as quickly as usual. The soil is usual too poor in nutrition for much of a crop. It has been -silent- here." The monk chuckles softly to himself. "We only want Konoha to safe keep the most forbidden scrolls as a precaution. Our own defenses are usually enough to thwart most intruders. Please follow me…"
Shizukesa briskly leads the team of shinobi deeper into the Temple. He walks very spryly for someone that must be in his seventies at the least. The air inside the Temple is full of incense smoke and prickly hay dust. It's enough to make sensitive noses itch. Even Kenta and Tsukino might do some sneezing until they adjust. There isn't much time to take in the view. What the group notices is that the decorations inside the temple is less flashy, but is still a tasteful blend of golds and reds. Other bald monks in grey robes hurry around the place while they perform various tasks to maintain the place. Few of them do more than bow at the group before continuing on their way. Shizukesa only brings them through two ground rooms and a short hallway before he leads them down a hidden staircase into the subterranean parts of the Temple. The tunnels are built like a maze, turning around and around so often than it's easy to become thoroughly lost. It's darker and dustier within. The way is narrow and claustrophobic, especially with only the occasional torch to light the way every few dozen feet.
Wishing to hurry things along, Atsuro is torn between decking the old monk and letting him continue with terrible puns. Fortunately, he opts for the second, and things continue briskly enough. "Of course," he says, nodding, "The sooner we get the scrolls back to Konoha, the safer we all are." He pauses for a second before following after Shizukesa.
"Do you need some kind of proof of who we are?" he asks, wrinkling his nose as they start to walk through the cloud of incense (which he swears is actually visible for a second). Taizen, unable to actually wrinkle his nose, simply sneezes several times. Fortunately, they eventually make it to the basement area, where the dust isn't so bad as the incense. It seems unlikely that this is where the enemy will make their attack — if there is an attack to come — but nonetheless, he and Taizen are careful to watch, listen, and smell for anything suspicious.
Tsukino wasn't sure how to deal with the bad joke from the old monk so she ends up with a tolerant smile on her face. The monk did not seem to really notice her, though and led the group deeper into the temple. Tsukino looked all around her, memorizing what she was seeing as she walked. Though the interior was downplayed it was still quite interesting and lovely. There was moments of shadow between the torches, the light of the flames glinting off her crimson hair, adding an orange tone to it that made her look like she wore fire on her head. She had rubbed and sniffed a few times, managing to keep from sneezing as they walked, slowly she became more able to deal with the incense, though the dust threatened now and then too. She glanced at the old man, curious to hear the answer about identification.
"Konoha sent a bird with your descriptions and credentials before you arrived. Our outer barriers also sense nothing hostile in your intent," the only monk explains during the walk. "We're no shinobi, but we do dangerous work. Out initiates are taught defensive jutsu before they take on the robes of a full monk."
Shizukesa explains that various branches in the tunnels lead to different repositories. The one that they're heading to is in the exact middle of the maze. As they head in deeper, the ones knowledgeable about barrier techniques start noticing various seals etched into the stone walls and floor. Most of them are inert, but are designed to create solid walls of chakra that can block the entrance or escape of intruders. Other seals indicate detection systems that would trigger an alert whenever an individual passes through them. There are seals against elemental jutsu, seals to induce sleep and seals so esoteric that only an Uzumaki would be able to puzzle them out. Kenta keeps lagging a little to examine some of them, but forces himself to keep going when it's clear that the monk isn't going to stop.
The group eventually arrives in front of a closed stone door that glows brightly from the layers of jutsu placed on it. Thousands of elegant seal characters etched into the stone are linked together with filigree wires of rare metal. Shizukesa spends nearly fifteen minutes making an intricate series of hand seals to shut down the defenses long enough for them to enter. It's almost disappointing to see what's inside. The repository is a ten foot by ten foot stone cell with shelves cut directly into the walls. The collection of old musty scrolls, tattered tomes and scraps of inked skin on the shelves number about four dozen at most. There's a single wooden table with a chair and an oil lamp set against the back wall.
Shizukesa turns to caution the group. "This doesn't look like much, but the knowledge within is very dangerous. The materials are also old and delicate. Please be careful handling them." He smiles benevolently at Tsukino. "Do what you must, Uzumaki girl."
Atsuro nods slightly, seeming to accept this explanation as to how the Shizukesa knows they're all right. "It's a compliment to Konoha that you consider it to be safer than here," he notes, "It sounds like anyone attacking this temple would be in for a tough time."
Neither Atsuro nor Taizen know a thing about seals, so they simply keep going after Shizukesa. They're willing to accept that the temple, or at least its underground, is quite secure. And when they reach the scroll repository, he and Taizen both simply stand back, knowing they won't be of any help opening the door or actually dealing with the scrolls themselves. "We'll take good care of them," he promises Shizukesa. He and Taizen are still on watch. With the doors being opened, the danger of someone attacking and trying to claim the scrolls is higher than ever, and it will be until they're safely back in Konoha.
Tsukino was like Kenta, caught by a seal here a glyph there. She wished she could study these seals more in depth. But she knows that this is an important mission and her curiosity about the various seals was nothing compared tot he mission. She watched with rapt attention as the old monk opened the door, 15 minutes of undoing seals and pulling back the chakra curtains that hung before them. She had not expected the room to be so small, but when she stepped in and looked around she was in awe.
The monk's words made her snap back to attention and she nodded. Taking out two scrolls and some ink, Tsukino worked a simple but coded scrollwork pattern on each scroll then capped the ink and replaced it in her bag. Next she pulled on a pair of gloves and carefully moved the scrolls and tomes to lay on the two scrolls on the table. A few hand signs and with a poof they disappear, locked into the scrolls. It only takes her a moment to roll them back up and place them in her satchel, completely hidden from sight.
The one advantage to being small is that Kenta doesn't feel as uncomfortable crammed into such a small area with so many people, some much bigger than him, like Atsuro. He watches with fascination while Tsukino does her work. "That's fascinating! Now I see why you're so comfortable storing kunai in your scrolls instead of keeping them directly holstered on you."
Despite how delicate the materials inside the repository is, nothing breaks or tears while Tsukino does her work. Scroll after scroll. Tome after tome. Storing them is as simple as breathing for someone of her experience. It might come as a surprise when Shizukesa announces "one more scroll" after she finishes her storage efforts. The old monk reaches his right hand into stone back of the third row in an emptied shelf and makes a series of one-handed seals with his left hand. The back pops open with a grinding sound to reveal a final object, a faded scroll case. Shizukesa shudders when he touches it and hands it to Tsukino as quickly as possible.
"This is the most dangerous jutsu of all. It must be kept apart from the others." The reason quickly reveals itself to Tsukino. The scroll case is a tube of hard leather that's inscribed with tiny seals similar to the ones that protect the repository door. It keeps the case from being opened without the proper jutsu. But the longer that she looks at it, the more she sees that something isn't right. It's subtle, but two of the seal characters are misaligned. Three characters are nonsensical. One is completely missing. Her gut says that she's holding a forgery.
Atsuro and Taizen continue to look and smell for signs of danger, even as they watch Tsukino at work. Even though they understand almost none of the process, it's interesting in a certain way. Idle as they may seem, Atsuro is rapidly tapping one foot unconsciously, and he looks all around when he's not watching Tsukino. As safe as things seem here, the Silence is a dangerous group — who knows what they might be capable of? He raises an eyebrow as Shizukesa pulls out the final hidden scroll, but of course he doesn't realize it's a fake.
Tsukino blinked when the monk told her there was one more scroll to seal and pulled out a third scroll. She looked confused until he mentioned it needed to be kept apart from the others. The most dangerous one there on top of it. She laid out the scroll on the table before moving with still-gloved hands to take the leather container carefully. She furrowed her brow then, confusion plain on her face. She stepped over beside Atsuro and Kenta then, eyes on the tube as she puzzled out a few things. Finally she looked up and watched the monk carefully. "There's a mistake here. This.. this isn't right. The seals are wrong and missing half of what should be here. I.. think this is a fake."
Kenta blinks at Tsukino in surprise. He leans closer to take a look at the scroll case, but doesn't attempt to take it from her. Old monk Shizukesa staggers forward to do the same thing, but with greater alarm in his expression. "That's impossible! Only a few people know how to access this room and the sensory barriers record every instance!" His face turns white when he sees the same thing that Tsukino does. "How? I check every time I come here and the scroll was fine two weeks ago. That was the last time this room was accessed!"
Something in Shizukesa's statement is incongruent with what Atsuro and Taizen's noses are telling them. There are layers of scents in the air. The strongest is the old, old smell of stone, dust and musty scrolls, which permeates -everything-. After that are the most immediate scents of the people currently inside. But underneath those two layers is a third set of scents that's too strong to have been introduced more than an hour ago. The Inuzuka duo detects poppy and jasmine, leather and steel… and ninken? Even more mysterious is another wisp of scent that smells extremely familiar and reminds them of their childhood, but isn't immediately identifiable.
"A fake?" Atsuro's voice sounds alarmed, naturally, "What about the other ones? None of those are fakes?" He and Taizen step towards the scroll repository for the first time since getting here and sniff the air. "No," Atsuro says, "Someone was here recently. And it's starting to look like they got the grand prize." Taizen adds, "Within the last hour." Atsuro turns to Shizukesa, frowning. "They have a pretty distinctive scent," he says, "We might be able to track them. If any of those seals might lock this place down or help us find them, now would be a good time to use them." He pauses, "I don't suppose you've had any new initiates recently?" Based on the scents, he hazards a couple of guesses. "Someone with a dog? Someone who likes flowers?"
Tsukino watched the old man, wary of his reaction . It was possible that he was an imposter or the source of the missing scroll as well. But that did not seem to be the case. He was as distraught by the information as she was. So when he came to take the tube from her, she let him. Atsuro's question about the other scrolls made her shake her head. "It would take me quite some time to go through them all with Shizukesa-san and figure out if they were all valid. I don't think we should take that time. But that one is fake." She looked at Atsuro when he spoke about what he and Taizen could smell. She looked at him. "Should we go after them? Atsuro-san is the strongest one here… But we need to keep these scrolls out of enemy hands…" She chewed her lip. "Should we split up?"
Shizukesa moans loudly in despair. "The Temple of Embers has failed it's duty. This is a disaster! For someone to breach our defenses without even tripping an alarm!" The old man grasps at his bald head with gnarled hands. His long, white eyebrows wiggle like silky caterpillars in his misery. "We -must- go after the culprit. We -must- find out where the scroll went. It can't fall into the hands of the wicked or many will die."
"Don't worry, Shizukesa-san," Kenta offers while looking very worried himself. "Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai are the best trackers in Konoha. If anyone can find that scroll, they can. The important thing is that if this scroll is as important as you said, we should handle it quickly. Is there anything at all that you can think of that might help?"
Atsuro's proclamation and question brings the monk up short. "You're suggesting that we have a traitor in the Temple? That's impossible, that's…" Shizukesa pauses. It's impossible to access the most forbidden repository without the proper knowledge, but someone still managed it. He starts thinking furiously. "Three new initiates joined eight months ago, three brothers. They told us that they're orphans from Kadomai, regular young men with no knowledge of ninjutsu. Or two of them did. One is a mute. They don't have a dog, but… the youngest brother likes drinking jasmine tea with his poppy seed biscuits."
"It smells like jasmine and poppies here," says Atsuro, "Which seems like an awfully big coincidence." He gives Tsukino a shake of his head. "That won't be necessary. We can check the scrolls after we've followed up on this lead." He turns back to Shizukesa, "I'm sure this isn't easy to hear, but I think we have our suspects. With eight months, they might have been able to figure out the security. I also smelled a nin-dog here." Taizen quickly adds, "One that is not me." Atsuro nods, "/Another/ nin-dog. Anyway, If any of those seals of yours can keep people from leaving the monastery, that would be great. If you can tell us where those brothers would be right now, that would be even better."
Tsukino nodded to Atsuro's statement that splitting up wasn't necessary, though she had been willing to stay behind and verify each scroll with the monk. She adjusted her satchel on her back, slipping the faked document into her bag as well. Then she turned and nodded at Atsuro and Kenta. "Ready when you are." She motioned for them to lead the way.
"We must find out if your guess is true, young man," Shizukesa says, suddenly all iron and stone. "Initiates are supposed to be studying, but if they're the thieves, they might try to flee. The Temple must raise its barriers as you suggested. Quickly!" The old monk breaks into a run without giving the shinobi much time to react. The stone chamber is empty now, so he doesn't bother going through the complicated process of resealing it. The team from Konoha is forced to chase after him if they don't want to be left behind in the confusing maze of tunnels. He moves like a man three decades younger than he really is.
When Shizukesa reaches the stairwell, he sprints up the steps and grabs the first person that he sees. "Brother Husing, Sound the alarm! Someone has broken into the most forbidden repository." Shizukesa barrels over the other monk's cries of surprise and alarm at that news. "Not now. Are Initiates Tomashi, Akemi and Omagi in the study hall? This is important."
Husing shakes his head in confusion. "No. I saw them heading towards the front entrance a few minutes ago. They said that they're running an errand for you today."
Shizukesa closes his eyes and rocks back from the reply. It's no proof of betrayal, but betrayal's looking more likely. "Raise the barriers. It might be too late, but we must try," the old monk orders. He looks back at the Leaf shinobi. "Follow me." Then, he's running towards the courtyard. As news of the intrusion quickly spreads, the yells of other monks start filling the background.
"I hope I am," says Atsuro hurrying after the old man, Taizen not far behind him, "The jasmine and poppies seems like too much of a coincidence. But I still don't know where that nin-dog scent came from." Fortunately, Atsuro and Taizen are rather fast themselves, so they have no trouble, even running right up the stairs. "I suppose that you didn't ever ask them for an errand," Atsuro says drily, once he's heard that excuse. He continues to follow Shizukesa, hoping the three rogue initiates haven't gotten away yet. Both he and Taizen are sniffing the air even as they run at top speed, hoping to catch a trace of the three traitors.
Tsukino broke into a run as they headed down the hall, keeping pace with those around her. Though it was a wonder that the old man could run that fast! She kept up with Atsuro and Taizen and Kenta as they went up the stairs. When the old monk stopped to talk to another man. She kept walking, eyes glancing over the courtyard, searching for the standard initiate clothing the three should be wearing. Could they be part of the Silence?
Shizukesa and the shinobi reach the courtyard just in time to see a dome of white chakra spring up around the Temple of Embers. Three tall young men had almost reached the great doors, but are forced to turn back when they find the way blocked by the Temple's defenses. They whirl around at the sound of footsteps and shouting. Similar smooth black hair, prominent cheekbones and lean builds indicate that they must be the three brothers. All three are dressed for travel.
The youngest looking of the trio drops his satchel and starts making hand seals. He slams his hands into the ground. Five crimson chains formed of seal characters spears across the ground towards each of the pursuers. At the same time, the other two brothers leap into the air and turn into double spinning tornadoes. "Gatsuga!"
"No!" Shizukesa utters in a pained voice. His fears were proven to be correct. The old monk flashes through his own series of hand seals and slams a hand into the ground even as the false Initiates attack. A dense wave of chakra blows outwards from him. It cancels out the crimson chains snaking towards the monk and shinobi, but only slows down the two attackers in the air by a little. More importantly, the jutsu cancels out the powerful henge on all three of the false Initiates. The young man still standing near the great doors blur and turns into a dazed girl with hair as red as Tsukino's. One of the young men spinning towards them suddenly have a fang tattoos on his cheeks. The last young man… isn't even a young man at all, but a pure white ninken almost as large as Taizen.
Atsuro and Taizen aren't even really conscious of their defenses, simply dodging by instinct, so they aren't fully watching the action, but hearing the shout of one of their very own clan's jutsu being used clues them in. The smell of the nin-dog, the mute brother; suddenly these two pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly. "One of them's an Inuzuka," Atsuro shouts, even as he leaps back just in time to avoid being hit by one of the tornadoes.
He lands in a crouch, Taizen right beside him. The dog snarls, his teeth bared and his coat puffed up aggressively. "You handle the girl for now," he orders the others, "We'll take care of the strays." He looks directly into the eye of the human Inuzuka, "Whoever you are, that was pitiful. Let us show you how it's really done." He and Taizen leap into the air in perfect unison, and begin spinning like a pair of drills with the same perfect timing. The twin whirlwinds don't go straight for the other Inuzuka duo, though. Instead, they move low to the ground, then suddenly veer upwards at the last minute, attempting to smack their targets right into the air. Then they move up above their targets and come back down again, attempting to smash them hard into the ground.
Tsukino spotted the three initiates as they reached the door and were forced to turn back. She was preparing a seal wall herself when the old monk beat her to the punch. But that was fine. Atsuro called out a command that she was planning on executing even before he spoke it. She moved forward then, hands flashing through the hand seals as she headed straight for the girl. Another Uzumaki by the look of her. Which made it all the worse. Her palm glowed with power and she made to tap the girl, anywhere, it didn't matter. If she moved she'd go for her arm or wrist or back or head, anything would do. Blue eyes flashed angrily at the girl. Should the strike connect, the girl would find herself trapped in an apparently solid block of chakra. "I need rope!" She called out to the nearest of the monks not engaged in combat.
What the?! Kenta barely has time to process the fact that at least two of the attackers appear to be Inuzuka. He forms several hand seals, slaps his palms together and stomps hard on the ground. Walls of chakra quickly boxes him in, but he's still forced to stagger back a step when the white ninken slams into the barrier. Luckily, it doesn't break his defenses. He drops the barrier quickly and sharply thrusts his right palm out to release a blast of medical chakra at the ninken. It misses, but staggers his target just enough that Taizen catches it by surprise.
Twin craters erupt in the garden where Atsuro and Taizen slams the rogue Inuzuka into the ground. The unknown male growls at Atsuro when he struggles to a crouch with blood streaming from his nose and mouth. At least one leg looks broken and he's hugging his ribs. The white ninken looks no better. Surprise suddenly flashes in the young man's eyes. His bleeding nostrils flare to suck in the scents in the air. Whatever he smells makes his expression tremble. "Atsuro-nii-san?" he whispers. There's something about the young man's words… his scent… It's the same scent from the forbidden repository.
Suddenly, a memory comes to Atsuro. It was so long ago. He was barely more than a boy back then, not quite a teen. "Atsuro-nii-san! Teach Hageshi and me how to use Tsuga, pleeease?" The words echo in his head, coming from the phantom of a even littler boy and white puppy that used to follow him and Taizen everywhere with adoring eyes. Takato was his name. But that little boy is dead. He went on a trip with his parents and his parents returned alone. They never said what happened, only wept whenever their son's or his ninken's name is mentioned. That young voice and those adoring eyes never appeared again.
"Takato, what's wrong? Get up!" the red haired thief screams when Tsukino goes after her. Her back arches and ghostly chakra chains, definitely an Uzumaki technique, erupts from her back to intercept her attacker. Tsukino barely manages to slip through. Right before the unidentified girl is trapped in the binding jutsu, she throws a round ball into the air. The object explodes when it nearly reaches the defensive dome around the Temple, sending out a flare of light.
Shizukesa is down panting on the ground. Despite how quickly he's able to run, he's an old man and the jutsu that he used was apparently very taxing. The best that he can do is struggle to his knees and make his demands in a fatigue roughened voice. "Return the scroll to us. You don't understand what that jutsu does. Heavenly Feast of the Pure Land… that knowledge isn't for you."
"Natusumi, this is… It's Atsuro-nii-san… and Taizen… and…" The injured Inuzuka intruder starts sobbing. He reaches to clench at Atsuro's ankle, but something happens before his fingers touch. All three false Initiates stiffen like wooden dolls. An ugly glowing black seal 'Control' shines on their foreheads and their faces go completely blank. Two seconds later, a summoning diagram flares underneath them and they disappear with a concussive pop. Only the Leaf shinobi, the monks and the red-haired thief's satchel is left in the partially demolished courtyard.
Atsuro is already preparing another strike against the younger Inuzuka, but even he hesitates as the boy suddenly seems to recognize him. And he even stops as the memories come flooding back to him, his eyes suddenly widening with dawning realization. Taizen, too, seems to remember now, and hangs back as well. "What…? Why are you…?" He nearly chokes on the words. At first, it just seemed like this was some rogue Inuzuka selling the Land of Fire out to its most dangerous enemy. But for this moment, it seems like he's just a scared young man. "Haven't you been working with the Silence?" Atsuro suddenly demands, raising his voice to nearly a yell, "What happened to you?"
But then the young man and nin-dog both disappear, just like that. Atsuro stays silent for a moment, fists clenched and eyes closed even as his eyebrows crease into an angered frown. Finally, he seems to relax somewhat and opens his eyes. "Is the bag trapped?" he asks. He sniffs. "It doesn't /smell/ dangerous."
Tsukino watched her barrier trap the woman and she glanced back at Atsuro. Clearly the boy was an Inuzuka… She felt her heart ache for Atsuro and Taizen. How badly it feels to lose a family member. She knew the pain of that and by the way the boy spoke to Atsuro and the fact they are of the same clan made Tsukino assume they were kin of some kind. Still, she had work to do. One of the initiates brought her a rope and slowly she reached into the barrier to start binding the woman's hands. "I will take you back to Uzushiogakure and my Grandfather will decide what to do with you.. I promise to beg for mercy on your behalf if you come quiet…ly…" She blinked repeatedly before glancing around at the others. All three were.. gone? She blinked again, glancing down and seeing the girl's satchel. The Uzumaki princess bent to retrieve it, and looked it over to see if there were any seals visible. It looked safe enough… So she looked inside, hoping to find the real forbidden scroll.
"Atsuro-senpai, what's wrong? Who were they? Two of the attackers are Inuzuka. Are they missing-nin?" Kenta asks in confusion. He stares at the place where the intruders stood, none completely empty of their presence. The young medic-nin shifts his weight from foot to foot in an ill-at-ease manner. "That was the summoning technique. I recognize part of the pattern from the spider cave. But I thought that the summoning technique doesn't work on humans…" Kenta quickly hurries to Shizukesa's side when he notices the monk's condition. He places his hand on the monk's back and starts sending gentle pulses of chakra inside to find out what's wrong.
Meanwhile, Tsukino's not finding much of use inside the satchel. There's some travel rations, a change of clothing, a big packet of jasmine tea, a pair of finely lacquered hair sticks, some blank futa paper for making tags… no special scroll case. The items might still be useful for tracking purposes, but the most important thing is definitely missing. The only good news is that no one had managed to grab the rest of the forbidden scrolls from Tsukino during the scuffle.
Old monk Shizukesa bows his head and rests his forehead on the ground. He barely even notices Kenta inspection. "We failed," he utters in a tired and fragile voice. He looks up at the team of Leaf shinobi with haunted eyes. "You must find them no matter what. That scroll… that technique… Heavenly Feast of the Pure Land is an immortality jutsu, but it carries a heavy price. It grants the user immortality by allowing him to devour the souls of others to extend his own life. It was only used once in the past by its creator… and it wiped out an entire clan as its sacrifice and led to the deaths of many others. Find the scroll. Use whatever means necessary. I beg you…" The weight of his emotions makes the monk's head drop again.
As Kenta questions him, Atsuro just glares at the spot where the two Inuzuka disappeared. "I dunno," he says after a long pause. "I'll… tell you later, once we're done here." He walks over and kneels down beside Shizukesa. "We'll get it back," he promises, "Don't worry. We'll secure the scrolls in Konoha, then we'll start hunting them down right away. We /will/ find them." He turns to Tsukino and says, "Hold on to that satchel. It could be useful. Try not to get any new scents on it." He gets to his feet and starts sniffing around for the scents again. They're eight months old, so it's unlikely they'll find any traces of them, but perfumed if he's not going to try.
Tsukino frowned when she saw how upset Atsuro was. He hid it well. Or at least he was good at compartmentalizing. His promise to explain later made her sigh softly, but she went through the bag. Nothing.. A nice pair of hairsticks.. But nothing overly useful. She headed over toward the others as Kenta and Atsuro assured the monk they would retrieve the scroll in question. Atsuro's final order made her nod and pull out another scroll. It wasn't long before she'd locked the satchel in a scroll, protecting it from further contamination. She nodded and smiled warmly at the monk. "We'll get it back. as soon as these are safely delivered."