Date: July 12, 2014
Taiki and co's incognito travels are interrupted by an old enemy who has apparently learned new tricks…
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Unknown Escalations - Village Hidden in the Recluse"
Somewhere in Lightning Country on the way to Kumo…
After a couple of very convoluted but top secret meetings between the Hokage and Taiki, a grand scheme has been developed to get Taiki from Konoha to Kumogakure in (relative) safety. To the public, Taiki left in a publicly recognizable but moderate-sized procession toward Kumogakure a couple of days before he actually left, with someone very convincingly disquised portraying him.
Then, two days after the procession left, Taiki, along with Atsuro and any other high ranking shinobi willing to travel icognito met at the gates. Taiki himself was not dressed in his normal attire, and in fact was wearing a standard merchant's garment, complete with a backpack full of inks and herbs for trading. His ninja gear, along with his more formal wear, was hidden in seal scrolls on his person. After everyone who was going was gathered, they took off, keeping a civilian pace for a while until at one time of night they would vacate standard trails, heading off for an hour under cover of darkness to confuse any would-be followers. That was a few days ago, and now the group is about three quarters of the way to Kumo, with no trouble in sight.
Taiki's ninken, who joined the group after the late-night split from trails, are traveling alongside Taiki now, alert but relaxed. Taiki himself has been quiet, only asking for help to ensure his distinctive fang marks are covered. He's been otherwise mostly congenial but quiet, though he hasn't volunteered to anyone else not in the know why all this elaborate act is necessary.
Noab needed to head over to Kumo himself as part of the show of goodwill. How sending a grumpy old grouch to be someone's extended guest has anything to do with goodwill escapes him, but that's how it is. Maybe there just weren't enough other clan heads who could be persuaded to make the trip. e.U At any rate, given the chance, Noab will opt for slower-paced travel in general…so what better than escorting a 'merchant convoy' moving at civilian speed? Noab trudges along with the group, eye on the road at his feet. Odds are if any threats do show up, he won't be the first to notice anyway.
For the sake of his own disguise, Atsuro has had to carry his own swords this time. He has two ninjato at his waist and a katana strapped to his back — sadly, that's just going to have to do for now, because they rest are in his luggage in the caravan. And for Taizen to look the part of an ordinary guard dog, he's had to swap his vest for a collar. Atsuro's clothes are actually more practical than his usual, to some degree. His clothes and flack jacket have been switched for thick wool clothing, and his forehead protector has been replaced with a knit cap. Beneath the fabric, concealed armor plates have been sewn in to protect the vital areas, but he looks like little more than an ordinary caravan guard, here to make a buck and probably among the first to run should there be trouble. He and Taizen both sniff the air and look around as they walk — Atsuro trying to be less conspicuous about it than Taizen.
Etsu didn't typically don disguises, but that didn't mean she didn't know how to use one when the opportunity arose. With her kikaichu cloaking and changing her appearance, she had taken on the appearance of a stuffy secretary keeping tally of everything that was taking place. Probably wasn't much of a stretch for her, in actually. Her hair was pinned up tightly into a bun with bangs to either side of her face and round glasses nestled into her ears. She wore an average robe and walked around with padded shoes. In her hand was a pen and tucked in her arm was a scroll. She had to be certain that these items didn't take any damage or so help her, there'd be some fussing. Lots of it. She huffed and whipped open the scroll to check it over once more for good measure before rolling it back up.
This being one of the lesser-used roads, one is not normally expecting to see traffic on the road, or even in the areas to either side. In fact, this looks like farm roads for the most part, with large, spacious fields of crops growing to either side, and only sparse smatterings of trees. Still, some of these crops can grow quite tall, not to mention some areas have water-logged crops that can hide smells. All in all, this road is used infrequently, which makes it very obvious if someone's been on it in the past week, which is why Taiki selected this route.
Taiki himself appears relaxed for the most part, or as relaxed as such situations can leave him. The road looks like it was used at least a few days ago, though the tracks are hard to discern, and no real scents seem to be present. Taiki looks off toward the northwest for a moment, as if thinking about something, then shrugs and turns back to the road. In the meantime, his ninken, divested of their normal gear, sniff in apparent random patters but are trying to keep track of any changes in smells. Today, however, the road appears mostly deserted, at least as far as the eye can see.
Noab peers off into the distance. It's hard for his old eye to make things out far away, but it's obvious there's some sort of structure around a half-mile away…a barn maybe? Would make sense. What doesn't make sense is the sound he picked up from it a moment ago. "Anybody else hear a crash from over there?" Noab mutters. "Either somebody's hayloft just collapsed, or something's going on."
Atsuro is already frowning slightly as Noab brings the crash up. "Yeah," he says, "I don't think it just collapsed… not on its own, at least. There are some people there, and it sounds like some animal too…" He shares a glance with Taizen. Still wanting to keep up the 'normal dog' disguise, Taizen woofs softly to Atsuro, who translates for the non-Inuzuka present. "I think I smell squirrel too. But not in a normal way. There's more of the scent than you'd just get in a forest." He glances down at the tracks, "Somebody came by here a few days ago."
Etsu acts as if she's scribbling something down and…maybe she /is/ scribbling something. She just received reports about the area around them. The prints on the road, the small traces of chakra and that disturbance that's not too far from here. She began to copy all this down in a code while saying, "Well, if it's going to affect the items in here, then we might as well go check on it," she adjusted her glasses and sniffed. "It's clear this place has been walked along, but not by ordinary people, that much is certain," she states. "And there's probably more where this comes from over there."
Taiki slips instantly into his persona as a merchant and asks dubiously, "You don't think it will be a problem, do you? I mean, I'm sure there's not something headed this way through those corn stalks, for instance?" He makes a quick Konoha hand sign in his hand to indicate he too picked up something, and he is in fact relaying that. Plus the shift to persona for him would indicate to the more experienced members of the entourage exactly what he's picking up. Shinobu and Nozomi whirl about and start barking in the direction of the barn, which Atsuro can translate into statements that something is indeed headed this way, and it is odd indeed. "What should I do?" he asks apparently worriedly. "Here boy, here girl," he calls out, tapping his leg as if summoning his dogs to him, which causes them to back up while continuing to bark.
About that time some rustling can be heard in the direction that Taiki is pointing, indicating a small group his headed this way. It appears to be a total of five things from the sounds they're making, though one is significantly ahead of the other. And the sounds appear to be coming ever closer…
Noab glances over in the direction Taiki indicated. If there's somebody specifically after them, there's probably not a lot of point in keeping up the charade, as they've evidently been found already. e.U If it's just a random bandit ambush, well, their present troop can handle that easily, not a lot of point in wasting time strategizing for that scenario. Going back to the first option, probably the best bet of stopping them would be to turn the area they're approaching through into a sticky swamp right under their feet. They can't see very well in all that corn, and it's open country, noplace for them to leap clear. But then, it'd probably ruin a big chunk of the harvest, and Konoha would have to pay for it. e.U Easily worth it if it saves the lives of some of its top shinobi, but still a hefty chunk of change and a hit to their reputation, and what if it does turn out to be simple bandits? :P Noab settles on the middle path of simply gathering up his chakra while he waits to see what happens. He's not exactly the best at first-responder stuff anyway.
"What the brush is this?" Atsuro asks nobody in particular. "I knew you were offering too much money. If this is just some random bandits, fine, but if these are ninjas or something, we /done/." All part of the act. He draws both ninjato, then kneels down on the ground, allowing Taizen to get at the katana on his back. The dog quickly grasps the grip in his teeth and unsheathes it. Still, he needs to look like a normal dog, so he stays behind Atsuro, concealing the blade behind his comrade's back for the time being. Meanwhile, Atsuro closes his eyes for a moment, concentrating as he readies his chakra.
"There's always a problem that could come in between us, these items, and everything else," Etsu looked over the scroll. "I don't like losing goods and I suspect you don't either, so unless we don't consider it a problem, because everything is a problem always and /especially/ with me, we must do what we can to protect this caravan from harm. If anything gets touched on here, I'll have someone's head," she huffed once more as she prepared herself to face whatever is coming.
"Hey! We had a contract buddy, either you follow it or I will have your head. I /will/, don't you test me!" She fussed and wagged a finger in his direction, keeping the act going.
What comes crashing through the corn is not what anyone expected really. In fact it's…
A squirrel the size of a rotweiler, but a squirrel nonetheless. It appears to have seen its better days though, as several stitches adorn its body. It wastes no time to slow down however as it runs through the crowd and around Shinobu and Nozomi, only to skid to a stop behind him. Nozomi turns to growl at the squirrel, but Shinobu remains facing the way the squirrel came, ready for the four humans that come running at shinobi speeds after the squirrel, only to come to a full stop in front of the group. Three of the humans appear to be genin-aged children, all dressed in plain black body-suits with various adornments depending on individual style. The fourth is older, probably a teenager, and wears a dark blue vest. All of them are wearing forehead protectors, but the symbols on them is not of any known village. In fact, the symbol appears to be the kanji for balance, stamped in the center where village affiliation would be. The leader wears a half mask, and reaches quickly into a belt pouch to pull out a book. As he brings it up the book looks to be a bingo book, but with the same symbol on it. "Hold…" he calls out to the kids, who stop and adopt a ready stance while the leader flips through the book, keeping an eye on everyone all the while.
Taiki, in the meantime, looks toward Atsuro and says, "I know nothing about this… nothing at all!" His voice sounds off though, as his eyes seem glued to those headbands. Something in Taiki's posture is screaming that things are not quite right here, which is verified a moment later when the leader closes the book and slams his palm down on the cover, activating a seal. "What the incisor?!" Taiki bites off, while going down into a four legged stance while starting to focus. Taiki recognizes the symbol at least, and looks very unhappy, and somewhat confused. But one thing for sure, the act is dropped now as he uncaps a couple of canteens, causing the water to stream out toward Nozomi while lightning starts to play around Taiki's and Shinobu's feet/hands/paws. One thing was for certain, the act was off now as Taiki obviously recognized something he saw…
Yep, not just bandits. Figures. Well, at least now they're out of the crops of whoever owns this patch of land. Dirt roads Noab can restore to more or less the same condition after messing with them. And while turning the ground into swamp might not catch the enemy off-guard at this point, it should make arrival a lot less convenient for whoever that guy with the book is about to summon. 'Cause, y'know, that's what sort of seal that looks like from here. "STAND BACK!!!" Noab barks, running through the needed handseals. Then he slams his palms to the ground, turning the area with the hostile nin, and hopefully their reinforcements, into a sticky sludge.
"Huh?" says Atsuro, trying not to play dumb too hammily, "It's just a bunch of kids and some weird… squirrel thing?" He looks over to Taiki and Etsu, "If I decide to stick around, you'd better explain /everything/ to me. I am not screwing around!" And indeed, he isn't screwing around. He turns his head in one direction for a moment, holding one hand behind his back and making a couple of hand signals: enemy, closing. Not knowing what exactly Noab's up to themselves, they decide to take the stand back advice and go for the rottweiler. Taizen charges out ahead of Atsuro, running at top speed to throw his bulk against the squirrel. Then Atsuro follows shortly behind, swinging his sword in a vicious slash at the creature.
"Oh." Etsu speaks as she sees the squirrel come running out. It only just now occurs to her that this squirrel…could ruin their caravan! Wait, she's still in character? "What is this nonsense? Are we being mocked? This is a—" She pauses as the shinobi come running out of the corn field. She winces. "Well then." She was not pleased with what was taking place here. Besides, Taiki's reaction was very unusual for what just happened. Who are these individuals? She decided to jump back and away as Noab calls out, initiating his attack. "I don't know what's going on here myself, but what I do know is that I won't tolerate it." She wasted no time in sending a wave of kikaichu forward to wash over the enemies. Guess her character part is over.
The squirrel proves it knows at least some form of jutsu as it tries to sunshin away from Taizen's tackle by leaving a pile of nuts, only to be caught anyway before being sliced by Atsuro. "Hey! I'm not with them! Help!" the squirrel screams in an unexpected basal voice. He then looks at Nozomi and says, "Help your partner here, I'm not going to hurt anyone! I'm just trying to escape!"
"Nozomi, the Recluse!" Taiki calls out as he charges forward twisting along with Shinobu to form a pair of lightning tsugas, which is not quite the same as the gatsuga. At the same time Nozomi, hearing Taiki's order, jump-turns, then jumps and twists into a water-funnel with a whilrpool drill bit and several water whips streaming out, striking at the entire group.
Just as Taiki and Shinobu are about to reach them though two figures in ANBU masks appear in front of the group and throw up seal barriers to stop the oncoming attacks from the canine duo and Etsu, but fail to get the shield up in time to avoid the bugs from swarming over the genin team. Both masked men have symbols on their foreheads similar to that of the genin team, and while one tries to fend off Taiki and his ninken, the other runs through a series of handseals before slamming a hand down on the ground. "Fuinjutsu, seal mines!" Seals appear under each Konoha member, threatening to drain chakra and cause damage…
In the meantime, the genin team appears to be out of the action, having been ensnared by the swamp before the ANBU arrived on scene. Etsu's bugs also managed to get through before they arrived, causing the genin team to scream as their flesh and chakra began to be consumed.
Noab grimaces. Summoning objects as an attack instead of reinforcements, eh? The swamp was probably overkill, then. At least it put the small fry amongst the enemy out of the action for the moment. Hm, what's that? Why are we discussing tactics while there's a seal about to go off under Noab's feet? Don't worry, narrative musings are a free action. ;) Since you're curious, though, Noab's reaction is to form the earth around the seal into a clone, which tumbles aside before the seal activates inside it. The clone crumbles back into dust, its purpose fulfilled.
With that done, Noab pulls up yet more earth, packing it around the blade of his axe to turn it into a massive club. He the makes a lunge at one of the ANBU figures, swinging the heavy weapon. The earth morphs into a hardened spike in mid-swing, aiming to pierce through any barriers the foe-nin might try to bring up.
It's starting to look like the whole deception is starting to come apart. So Atsuro wastes no time in shifting his focus away from the squirrel. "Could have chosen a better place to run than the perfect position to attack someone…" he grumbles, turning around to face the enemy ninja. They seals go off before they can attack, and both quickly respond by jumping forward at the two masked men. As their feet leave the ground, they both start to spin into identical tsuga drills, which blast towards their assailants, first attempting to knock them into the air, then coming around for another pass to slam into them hard.
Etsu sent out a number of kikaichu and condensed them into a sphere to protect her from the effects of the mine. The mine was particularly powerful, but not enough to get through her defenses. When she called the insects back to her, she asked, "Do you want them dead or not?" She intended to kill and wasn't keen on waiting too long for an answer. In fact, she decided to go through with her attack saying, "Clear the way, now!!"
Soon afterward, she held her hand out and blew onto a small gathering of insects, creating a massive cloud of poison aimed directly at the enemies.
In the meantime, the genin team is trying to dig their way out of the swamp, by attempting to go the opposite direction. They obviously bit off more than they can chew here, and know it. Any veteran shinobi can realize that the ANBU are covering for them, though the leader does say something that causes them to react. "The merchant is a high-ranked ninja, and with those dogs, it's probably Inuzuka Taiki! I can feel his chakra!" Okay, well that probably explains the leader's reactions. That's the last thing he says before the poison cloud envelops the team, guaranteeing the death of the genins at the very least.
In the meantime more seal barriers pop up to block off Noab's attacks. Taiki's and company's attacks are met with barriers, which hold both against him and Noab's attacks. They both fail to hold against Atsuro and Taizen's attacks, which cause them significant damage. One of them barely gets his or her seal defenses back up in time to avoid Etsu's poison cloud, while the other is enveloped, and starts hacking. He attempts to shunshin away while the other ANBU runs through some handseals and slaps his shoulders. Visible areas of skin start to glow blue, as does the ANBU's eyes, and his bleading slows down. He is entering some kind of seal transformation, that much is obvious.
Taiki looks at the man for a moment, then shakes his shead as his lightning claws grow longer. Taking the time given by the ANBU, he rushes in with both claws in an attempt to set things up for Noab, raking him with the more advanced version of lightning claws. Nozomi, in the meantime, seems to be maneuvering for the team leader, in case he tries to get away.
Noab feels the rebound as his club bounces off the barrier. >.U Dropping the weapon for the moment, he enlarges both of his arms and raises them high. Surviving an ambush (if it really was an ambush, sounds like they might've just been chasing after this squirrel) is all well and good, but ideally they're going to want some answers. Noab swings his arms down and inward, aiming to squash the ANBU tightly (but hopefully not quite lethally) between his palms.
Atsuro knows that the important thing here is to stick with the group and ensure any remaining enemies are driven off. But as a secondary objective, it's to their benefit to capture or kill as many enemies as possible. Fortunately, Atsuro thinks he's got a solution. He makes a seal, and with a puff of smoke, a clone appears and charges the masked enemy trying to escape with the shunshin technique. Meanwhile, the real Atsuro and Taizen hang back for a moment, wary of and ready to guard against the one who's just activated the seal.
The last of the cloud blows away from Etsu's hands and and covers the area, signing death over the heads of those less skilled. That leaves those who may be able to endure the test of time a bit better. For those, she unleashes insects to increase their pain and misery by releasing more poison into their systems. They endured her nano insects, so they must have a bit more life left in them. They can't be allowed to escape and she doesn't intend on that happening. No one just attacks without suffering the punishment for such actions.
Well, whatever was going on, the team soon ended the confrontation with authority. Not only has the entire Genin team fallen prey to Etsu, but the combined efforts of the entire entourage dispatched the two ANBU with authority. As each one dies, their bodies begin to dissolve away, eaten by acid released from seals planted somewhere on their person. The ground re-solidifies with rapidly digesting bodies decomposing in front of them. Soon the only being left living from this incident is the rather large squirrel, whom Taiki turns right around and starts tending to with healing jutsu. "Why were they after you?" he asks while healing the squirrel.
"They caught me away from my clan's home, and were attempting to get me to bind to one of their genin. I didn't want anything to do with them, and when I told them that they tried to run experiments on me until gave in. I managed to escape, and litterally ran into you folk. Thank you so much for saving me…" he replies very quickly, but not without throwing a dark look toward Atsuro and Taizen. As the wounds heal, he steps back and says, "Thank you!" Without another word, he's gone, reversed summoned back to his realm.
Well, that's unpleasant. :P Noab quickly releases the ANBU as he feels him go squishy in his hands, barely managing to avoid getting the acid on himself. "Bleh. Guess these guys are pretty serious about keeping their secrets." Noab picks up his weapon. "Well, even if they weren't after us, their comrades might come looking. We'd best double-time it."
Atsuro looks at the dissolving bodies for a moment before turning away, his nose crinkled in distaste. In fact, he turns just in time to see the squirrel give him that look. "Blame yourself," he says simply, "I suppose there isn't much hope of us working together in the future." Taizen responds merely by staring back at the squirrel, undisturbed and wagging his tail. Once the squirrel is gone, Atsuro nods along with Noab. "Yeah. We should get a move on. Could be more of them in the area." He sniffs the air, "Or at least, they're expecting them to return at some point. And that… probably isn't going to happen." He glances at the remains of the enemies for a moment before sheathing his swords, then moving on.
"…" Etsu began to open her mouth to speak, but soon closed it. Their job was done here and there was nothing more to say. She called the remainder of her insects back to her and straightened her hair back into its bun style. "I think we should get a move on too. This place is destroyed and I'm not going to offer up any compensation for it," she dusted her robe off. It had stuff on it now… "I need to change." The scent of dissolving corpses was well within the range of her senses, but she didn't say much about it.
Taiki himself is actually in a similar situation as far as olfactory senses are concerned, but his medical practice allows him to ignore the smells. he does walk over and grab the bingo book the team leader dropped, then scans it really quick for seals. Not finding any destruction seals on it, he pockets the book and looks at the others. "The fact that they have genin teams and a bingo book indicates changes that do not bode well for us," he says, making it obvious he knows, in broad terms, who these people are. "And yes, if we want to avoid a long, drawn out battle against some truly frightening individuals, or a small army, or both, we should leave, now. Let's double time to Kumo, for our cover is blown, and we need to process what we saw here today." Taiki and his two ninken are ready to go, and soon the team moves out for Kumo with all due haste.