Date: September 25, 2011
Sunagakure's Team 01 are sent on a search and rescue, but not before receiving a new addition to their team. Unfortunately, while it's a long-awaited reunion for some, sparks fly in other directions.
"What Lies Beneath, Remix"
Sewers beneath San-Sura Durata
"Nngh…" Rurohashi Rinako, Jounin and famed fan-of-sleeping-in, runs her fingers up the sides of her face, into her loose bangs, and then bunches them into fists over her head as she stretches upwards and yawns like an uncurling feline, her toes outstretched to give her more stretchability. "How come every time someone has to go into a sewer, it's our team that comes to mind? Really, who'd we piss off?" Her hands come back down to her sides with a flop.
San-Sara was was never the most pleasant of places to begin with, yet likely most of the team felt that if they never saw another sewer, it would be TOO DANGED SOON. The last one had been inhabited by things that would have been better off dead, fetid water, and, at the end of it, had waited the most grotesque of giant mutant zombies. And it was made up of smaller mutant zombies. Not their best day. But today would probably be better. Right?
Even now Rinako was folding her arms and leaning back in the shade of the village's eastern gate, while they waited for their support member. Given the recent unrest around the area with a sudden surge of dangerous criminals, it had been decided that a support medic would accompany them. It likely also had something to do with the condition that Team 01 had returned in after their last sewer trek, where most of them had barely been able to walk upright.
The sun was just finishing to set in the west, heralding the imminent arrival of nightfall, which was when they'd start traveling. At least the mission scroll hadn't declared the need for 'immediate departure', allowing travel under the much cooler conditions of nightfall. They were to arrive in the Desert City of Knives before the sun arose again, and immediately enter the sewer network where it deposited near the northern portion of the city.
Reports indicated an unusual number of disappearances in this area of the city, mostly of criminals, but also of at least one genin who was undercover while trying to spy on a drug cartel. His last report that came in by carrier pidgeon had stated that he was going to investigate some rumors of drug smugglers being attacked while moving narcotics through the tunnel network. He was part of a three-man 'hit squad', in tandem with his cover as a leg-breaker, that was checking it out. He was never heard from again.
This would be troubling enough and warrant shinobi investigation, but the higher ups also thought it might be a possible lead as to the location of Genjitsu Emu. Though the people vanishing were mostly adult, all leads had to be traced. Team 01 was to determine what had happened to the missing genin, attribute top priority to recovering him if alive, and secondary priority to capturing whoever was responsible for his death or imprisonment.
"I hope we're not wading through ten miles of goop this time. I had that crap in my mouth. In my MOUTH, imouto-chan! …I think I swallowed some. And I don't even want to think about how I bit into that pile of mutant freaks. Bleeeeearch!"
Shemri stands by and keeps an eye on the team's surroundings while Rinako rants. While she doesn't say much, it goes without saying that yes, she'd prefer not to enter any more sewers all else held equal. :P It took her hours to get the smell out of her clothes, especially the sash. Lucky that was back when she wore a relatively short one. Washing the sash she has now is quite a chore even when it's not all stinky. Shiikaa also watches and waits, ears swivelling. If there are any zombies involved in today's mission, he'll likely be the first to know.
Rurohashi Ruri waits by the eastern gate. She has not been out of the Village proper since the failed mission to 'pacify' that rogue Seishukuni. She doesn't want to go out there. She has lived in this place her whole life without any fear of the desert. But now, she looks out at the flat, sandy stretches… The dunes that glitter as though strewn with diamonds beneath the moonlight… Occasional rocky outcroppings and boulders… The huge pit created when her sister blasted apart that snake-mountain-thing… And she sees only a FIELD of HANDS.
Walking out there will mean facing her fears. It will mean moving beyond her encounter with the Land of Wind's equivalent of 'the Boogie Man'. It will mean she might find the hands of the dead reaching up, grabbing her, and pulling her under the sand itself to be eaten alive in the darkness.
She shoves away that last dark mental image with a shudder and turns towards her sister. "Well, I guess the lesson learned from that mission was 'don't open your big mouth so wide', or maybe 'stay out of the sewers'," she offers sarcastically. But it's not mean or dismissive of Rinako's suffering. After all, they were ALL down there, but Ruri didn't get that stuff on her much/at all. Ruri changes the subject suddenly as she says, "That crater out there still hasn't been completely filled by the movement of the sand. I kind of wish they'd just like… Put up a big wall around it so it stays there. Commemorate it to you, even."
Ruri holds up both hands in the air as though they are serving as a frame to help her picture the imaginary words on an imaginary placard. "'On this spot, the first Jinchuuriki of Sunagakure no Sato turned into a giant turtle and saved us all with the power of exploding things. Let us bow our heads and give thanks to Rurohashi Rinako's hole!'" Ruri lowers her hands and grins a bit as she gives a sly glance towards her sister. "At least it will be easier this time if we DO run into trouble, right? We're all WAY stronger than the first time we went on a sewer mission. And I'm pretty sure Kara-chan has learned to keep various outfits and gear for alternate environments and terrain stored. So if we need some kind of 'Haz-Mat' outfits, we can probably go in there with independent air supplies, air filters, and no chance of getting gross stuff on us."
Kara is unhappy with the lack of progress on finding Emu. He is a nasty, evil, terrible, >monstrous< excuse for a man. She will not even call him a 'man', because she can think of about five different guys right off the top of her head who would be insulted if Genjitsu Emu was placed in the same gender box as them. Hone Nai is at the top of that list of men that Kara respects. She hasn't seen him much or really at >all< since their return from the Land of the Sea, and that makes her worried.
On top of that, she has heard rumors that he has been absent from work more and more, that he has been acting strange (well, strange for >Nai<, at least. He's not exactly the peak of 'normal' no matter how much she respects him) according to his co-workers, and she has been having trouble getting the information she needs from the Restricted Access portion of the Records Department without the Head of Records to grease the wheels of bureacracy. It seems that no one knows that library like Nai does. No one can find anything at all in less than five minutes, regardless of how high up it is, or how deeply it is buried amongst stupidly-high stacks of unorganized books, or how many times someone has misplaced it.
For the people whose job it is to know what information Sunagakure has, where it is located, and how to access it to have such a vast decrease in their efficiency and over-all competence because one man has become scarce does not bode well for the Village as a whole. But Kara is more worried about Nai. She is worried he might do something rash. She's worried he might go looking for Emu on his own.
Nai had taken a >special interest< in finding out why an orphanage had been under-funded, low on supplies, and very inhospitable, and then was shut down and put dozens of parentless children out on the street. He had wanted to find out who would do such a thing, and if any more children had been missed. Kara thinks that after hearing about the nearly-fatal encounter one Academy Student — one of those same orphans who had been 'saved', infact — had with Emu right in Sunagakure itself… She's worried that Nai may have gone trying to punish that monster for making those who had already suffered so much have to worry that their own Village was not a safe place to live.
Thus, the dark-skinned woman has a secondary objective beyond the completion of this mission. She wants to find Hone Nai if he's out where they're headed to… And bring him home.
There's a tertiary objective of 'get Emu so that Nai doesn't have to', but that kind of goes without saying. While Ruri teases and talks to Rinako, Kara turns to the mother of the team to carry on a different conversation, "Shemri-chan, you've already been briefed on this Genjitsu guy already, right? You know what kind of bad news he is? It might seem obvious that we can wipe the floor with him since he apparently 'lost' not only his Kekkei Genkai but also his ability to use Chakra for jutsu completely… But he has taken down a lot of kunoichi, even with a wide variety of abilities available to them all, and he seems to find strong kunoichi to be the most interesting 'targets'. Current info suggests that he was already capable in Taijutsu, but with the loss of his other abilities he has focused completely on that to the point where he almost doesn't >need< Chakra or jutsu anymore. You're our Taijutsu-specialist, but while I don't expect you to try to charge in and match him blow for blow or anything, if you have any insights or advice on things we can use against him, it would be appreciated."
The Jounin Puppeteer becomes aware that Ruri is talking to her and turns her head a bit. "Hm? Oh, yes. I have all kinds of outfits, protective gear, and so forth. I can spare two air tanks for each of us if we do wind up using breather masks or something, but with this support unit we're being sent… Well, I only have 12 tanks total, so there would be two spares at best. Let's try not to use them all up, okay?"
The Desert of Knives is a lawless region. It used to be controlled (in the loosest sense of the word 'controlled' imaginable) by the population generally labelled as 'bandits' by civilians, ninja who do not have to deal with such in-depth, foreign merchants, and similar. The fact of the matter is that though thousands of people lived in the area under very harsh conditions, not every person in the area had been born with 'the evil gene' (most had not been born in that area at all, but that's a diffeent subject) and not all of them resorted to illegal or immoral acts, behaviors, or practices. Whether man, woman, child, or elder, there are people out there — beyond the walls of Sunagakure, beyond the reach of the 'civilized' desert communities, beyond the protection of the Land of Wind's soldiers who obey the Daimyou — who are victimized far more frequently than the caravans who are occasionally raided if they lack adequate protection.
Yes, 'occasionally' raided. It used to be more frequent, but even then it was less frequent that one might suspect based on popular opinion and urban myths and so forth. But then the Siege of Sunagakure took place, and over three-thousand of the worst, most power-hungry, most greedy, murderous, and vile excuses for human beings — the individuals who most people think of when they think of a stereo-typical 'bandit' — were assembled via the machinations of a masked man who most had not even known was present, and who no one was still certain of the identity of, despite a worrying story told by a now-deceased prisoner about the ELDEST son of the Sage of the Six Paths. A man who was left out of the history books. No one knew of him or had heard of him. The Sage himself was only partially believed to have once existed by most people in this day and age. No one knew what to make of it all.
The bandit army was devastated. Perhaps a few hundred survived the initial two weeks of the Siege as Sunagakure's defenders, aid from outside, clever and timely plans from within, and so forth all culminated in a total rout. Only a few hundred mercenaries then stood their ground and fought back with suspiciously sophisticated weaponry, terrifyingly vicious tactics, and traps set up to continue injuring, killing, and otherwise hampering anyone who might try to give chase or just walk around in the desert surrounding Sunagakure itself. The mercenaries made a fighting retreat with minimal casualties via some unseen and unheard order. The Ghoul of the Desert was rumored to have been seen scavenging the bodies of the dead and even aiding Sunagakure in fighting the mercs off.
When it was supposed to be finally over, that's when the army of zombies appeared — the very same men and women who had died in battle during the two weeks prior. There were far more than just the three-thousand bandits as it also included Sunagakure's own ninja and the soldiers sent to their aid. Oh, and a mountain was turned into a giant snake to attack them.
The Desert of Knives is not as populated as it used to be, and there are far fewer bandits around. But the actions that lead to this somewhat safer situation had an impact on other things…
Many defenders of Sunagakure, whether they be ninja, soldiers, or even civilians who took a stand when those undead managed to overwhelm the gate guards and force their way into the Village, were at least injured. Others were killed. Sunagakure's military strength in the form of their ninja had been vastly decreased, and once the dust settled — both figuratively and literally — immediate action had to be taken to ensure no one took advantage of their drastically weakened condition. Every able-bodied individual was 'drafted' into service of some kind. A pair of normal civilians had stood guard outside of a Jinchuuriki's hospital room. Tailors and seamstresses had been set to work sewing bandages and bodybags. Academy Students who were not even prepared for graduation were 'advanced' to Genin and then thrust directly into active combat-duty, extremely advanced training that would normally have been reserved for turning a Chuunin into a Jounin, and a tense and uncertain future — made all the more uncertain by the fact that Sunagakure had been far better equipped, supplied, and protected before the Siege took place and they had still suffered greatly… And now these children were expected to pick up the slack now that their neighbors, friends, families, and comrades were either too wounded to serve or would never serve again.
More than a year later, and one of these Students-turned-Genin has also been made a Chuunin. She is a Puppeteer. She is a Medic-Nin. And she is—
—really loud and charging right at Rinakohgodwhat. Unless Rinako is swift to move out of the way, a young, teenage girl with white hair, riding atop a creature that looks kind of like an over-sized and four-legged insect of some kind, will wind up reintroducing herself by the simple expedient of crashing her Puppet into the Jounin.
Wait, that Puppet is not intended to crash into Rinako at all. The insectoid, wood-and-metal-looking thing is aimed at the OTHER Rurohashi sister. The white-haired girl has already leapt from atop her Puppet in an attempt to perform a flying glomp-tackle upon Rinako while her Puppet keeps Rurohashi Ruri 'out of the way'. Of course, Ruri might dodge, Rinako might not react well to this whole thing, any number of other complications might crop up, but Konomi is going to follow the example of her honorary big sister and that means charging right in and dealing with the consequences when they become a problem!
"Rinako-onee-chan, I've missed you, like, soooo much!" Konomi calls out regardless, though PREFERABLY while dangling from the older girl she is addressing. For now she completely ignores whether Ruri remains uninjured or that she may have just interrupted something important, or that Shemri and Shiikaa and Kara are all here too and ALL THAT OTHER USELESS TRIVIA.
"Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, HEY. …M'mouth ain't that big." As if to check and make sure she didn't have some sort of oral deformity, Rinako reaches up to touch her lips with her fingertips, puckering them as she does so. After a moment, she drops her hands. If her mouth was big, then so was her sister's! She doesn't extrapolate that little response as her dark eyes flick over to the enormous hole partially filled with mostly-covered rocks where an unnatural earthen formation breathed its figurative last. But then she turns a flat-faced, heavily-lidded stare towards her younger sibling.
"…I don't need anyone worshipping my hole, baby sister."
Now nowhere in the English language do the words 'swift' and 'Rinako' appear in a sentence that attributes the former to the latter. In fact, the reverse was universally true, wherein the jinchuuriki's LACK of speedy reflexes is often brought up! The Jounin was known for relying on overbearing strength and power over speed and tactics. Thus it is likely a very, very good thing that the insect-puppet is not aimed at her. If it had been, either she or the puppet would not have survived the encounter, depending on whose head was hardest.
The platinum-blonde teenager is hanging from the neck of the elder Rurohashi sister before Rinako has even finished going 'Huh?' at the sound of her name. For a moment, the older teenager simply blink-blinks down at the younger one who has deposited herself as a necklace upon her person. It takes her a second, but she grins eventually.
"Kono-chan? Where'd you come from!? I, uh, heard about your promotion! Sorry I wasn't there." The jinchuuriki's hands aim for the puppeteer-medic's hips so she's not just dangling under the strength of her own grip (and to alleviate some of the strain on Rinako's neck vertebrae). Unless the younger teen squirms from her grasp, she'll lift her up high enough to peer under her in the direction her REAL younger sister had been. "And what did you do to my sister?" And then she'd come back down, being set upon her own two feet, if she wasn't already. "Girl, we gotta get you some riding lessons."
"Im… Imouto-chan, are you okay?" Rinako did not want to have to begin cloning herself just to have a twin sister again due to the untimely demise of the first!
Shemri nods thoughtfully. "Yes, I have learned what I can about our prey. What I saw reminded me of a venomous snake. They will sometimes confuse an enemy with strange movements, some would even call it hypnotizing. Even a foe that is both swifter and stronger may be caught off guard if this happens." Shemri folds her arms. "It is possible this Genjitsu Emu uses his charms to distract kunoichi. Or perhaps he is simply very good at confusing people in general. Whatever the case, my advice is this: do not focus on what he is doing. Do not think about what he says. Only strike." Shemri shrugs. "And as for taijutsu, keep out of his reach." :P
Shiikaa gives a meow of warning. Not an urgent 'We're under attack!' type meow, more a 'Look out, here comes trouble.' ^e.e^ Shemri looks over just as Konomi announces her presence. "O-oi, watch where you are — " Too late. :P Shemri shakes her head. "Why do the young girls seem to admire Rinako-san?" she murmurs to herself. Shrugging, Shemri raises her voice. "Greetings, Konomi-chan. Ah. Aha. Perhaps I should not call you that anymore, though. You are a chuunin now, this is a fact?" Much too early in Shemri's opinion. Who cares that they're needed to support the village, a mother's opinion on what children are ready for is intractible! >P She'll not spoil the honor of it for her, though.
Ruri looks back at her sister with the same expression being offered to her, even as Kara confirms the availability of multiple types of environmentally-appropriate outfits and associated equipment. The fact they 'only' have two full air tanks each instead of three due to the inclusion of a fifth team mem—Okay, a fifth HUMAN team member on this mission is not really much of a concern in Ruri's mind. The sewers in that other place smelled bad enough that she tried to use FIRE to get rid of the 'fumes' by BURNING THEM AWAY. But hey, it's not like they're going to be down in these sewers for an extended period of time, right? Two each should be MORE than enough. Further, if someone is wasteful of her air tank, then Kara has two spares for such a greedy, wasteful, AIR-WASTING JINCHUURIKI.
…No, wait. No, that's water. Rinako goes through WATER really fast. Okay, then they should all be just fine!
"—" Ruri begins. This was the start of her mentioning how she hopes this support medic unit person thing shows up soon so they can get out there and get this thing done, but she doesn't even have the time to remember she feels very tense about the possibility of going out into the desert after saying such a thing nor does she even have time to say anything at all, because she hears some kid who is apparently out WAY too late when an enforced curfew has been declared for weeks now calling out to Rinako. Ruri sighs. One of the kids that follows her sibling around, apparently. Ruri is the dodgier of the twins, but even when she becomes aware of the staccato of wooden leg-tips rapidly tappity-tapping on the road as their owner charges at the four ninja and one cat… Even when Ruri SEES that there's some blur of white, with a dot of blue and a dot of yellow just below that on top of this bug-thing… Even when all of her training and experience and even just simple reflexes should have had her take action to defend HERSELF at least, if not the one who APPEARS to be the target at first…
Ruri is head-butted by the Puppet so hard that though she IS knocked off her feet, FIRST she is knocked off the ground and launched into the air, where she spins around and around like a top extremely quickly even as she flies backwards, almost seeming to be hovering in mid-air. Then she hits the street on her back, goes cartwheeling through the air, lands on her head — causing her eyes to bug out from the jarring impact, and then tumbles end-over-end along the road, right out the gates, onto the sand, and then eventually skids to a stop — though even that takes an additional five or six feet to conclude.
A dust trail lies in Ruri's wake.
Lying spread-eagled on her back, Ruri starts silently counting to ten but only makes it as far as pronouncing the first letter of 'two' before she has leapt to her feet, vanished in a blur of motion, and appeared right next to Rinako and this… 'Kono-chan' with various scrapes, scratches, lumps, and lots of dirt and sand all over her features. She immediately begins yelling and raging and swearing at the white-haired girl, completely oblivious to whether she's a ninja or a chuunin or the new Kazekage or the Sage of the Six Paths reincarnated as a brat who just rammed Ruri with a bleeping PUPPET!
It may thus be fortunate that she is so angry that the specifics of what she is ranting and railing are completely incomprehensible to human ears. Shiikaa is not so lucky. Eventually, Ruri stops flailing and gesturing angrily, and just stands there, gasping for breath, red in the face, and waiting for an apology!
She also answers Rinako's question by way of simply pointing at her banged-up face. Not enough air to talk right now.
Kara nods thoughtfully as she listens to what Shemri has to offer. The Maneshi has surmised some things that may be wise to recall when dealing with Emu, such as not giving him a chance to talk, to negotiate, to weave some fabricated story or confusing dialogue or who-knows-what-else, and just >kill him dead<. Deception as a way of taking down much more capable opponents or even just as an entire combat style and it >not< using Ninjutsu or Genjutsu… The Jounin spends a moment to think about how ironic it is that a fiend whose last name means 'reality' would be so gifted in 'illusions' that he is still leading those who should know better astray all these years later…
"Well, on the one hand I hope we >do< run into him just to put the threat he poses to an end, but on the other hand, our main priority is that Genin who has gone missi—" Kara breaks off when Shiikaa gives out a meow that sounds a lot like a cat that is trying to warn that trouble is coming this way! While Shemri is turning to call out to the approaching Puppet-riding Chuunin, Kara has retrieved a can of sardines from somewhere, crouched down and begun to open said can. She has completely failed her roll at translating meows. "Aww, who's a hungry kitty? Who's a hungry kitty, Shiikaa? That sounded like a very hungry meow! A hungry meow from a hungry little kitty-kat! Mewmewmew~!"
Then she looks up from baby-talking the nin-cat, to find some girl hanging on Rinako and an interesting Puppet standing there and Ruri has gone off someplace Kara didn't see. She sets the tin of sardines with its lid rolled back on the ground for Shiikaa and walks over to investigate the four-legged insect Puppet thing! She barely covers two feet before Ruri has returned and begun flipping out on the little girl >just like a true ninja<. All that's missing when Ruri stops to catch her breath is a kick to the teenager's face.
Kara 'unfreezes' from where she had paused in mid-step and says, "You know, people are trying to >sleep<, Ruri-chan. It's >late at night<." Then, dismissing the matter completely, she turns to the Puppet and looks it over. "Hmm… Hmm… Konomi, right? I recall seeing you around the Puppet Brigade HQ, but I don't think we've had a chance to talk in person yet." Kara stands a few feet away from Konomi and bows her head slightly — as a supervisor is expected to towards those beneath her. "I'm Uudo Kara, the head of the Puppet Brigade! Welcome to the team!"
The insectoid Puppet stands where it wound up after the full-speed headbutt of a Jounin who is also the twin of 'honorary big sister' Rinako. It does not move to prevent an inspection once that winds up happening. Light-weight, mostly wood, sturdy construction but unarmored, big enough for four people total to ride on it — including the 'pilot'… All the details an experienced Puppeteer could likely figure out. Konomi is FAR too busy being lifted by Rinako and spoken to and eventually set down and as brief as that interaction is, it is basically a super fantastic reunion and the highlight of this entire YEAR (almost. Becoming a Chuunin was the highlight of the year). She grins happily as she responds, "Pfft! That's, like, TOTALLY fine, Onee-chan! You have to go out and save the world one one cheerleader at a time, right? Some BOOGER tried to bug me about why you weren't there for it, and I was like, 'Whatever, booger! Talk to the hand!' and then he was, like, completely SPEECHLESS! I'll bet his mind was 'blown' or something? Anyway, I—"
The chatterbox pauses momentarily as Rinako asks what was done to her sister and if 'imouto-chan' is 'okay'. Konomi looks up at the older girl with a raised eyebrow as though the brunette had just asked if the brand-new-Chuunin had ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight and then followed that up by asking if she liked blood-flavored icecream. "Uhh, it's just me, Onee-chan! I grew a bit, but—Okay, I TOTALLY grew more than a bit, but I'm just fine!"
Konomi starts to turn to greet her ex-babysitter, pleased to see such a friendly face here, and with an adorably lethal nin-cat too, but then the Queen of the Harpies appears and begins screeching and hollering so much that in order to block out the noise, Konomi just pictures this Rinako-wannabe having an actual beak, feathers, wings instead of the arms she is flapping around, and so forth.
It helps somehow.
When the noise is over, Konomi says, "Ex-CUSE you! I am TRYING to say HELLO to people I haven't seen in, like, FOREVER! You're being WAY rudetastic!" Then she turns, seemingly oblivious to this being Rinako's 'real' sister and smiles at Shemri. "Shemri-san! Yes, I'm a Chuunin now, just like you, but you can call me, like, whatever is most comfortable for you! It'd feel all… All… -Bizarroverse- if I started calling you something else! You're old enough to be, like, how old my mom would be if she were two times older, right?"
Then she is addressed by Kara. She stands in place, calmly — almost blankly — watching as the older Puppeteer walks around the insectoid that Konomi has named 'Midi'. When Kara finally finishes talking and introducing herself. Then Konomi opens her mouth.
"Wow! The rumors were SO wrong about you! You're not from 'up north' at all, right?" Without giving a chance to answer, she then continues on to say, "You're from that Cow Clan, right? Since you're black does that mean you make, like, chocolate milk?" Without pausing for breath yet AGAIN, she then sticks out her tongue in disgust and says, "Ugh! Gross-out! Nevermind, I don't want to know what those things put out! Gag me with a spoon…" she mutters as she turns back to Rinako.
"Anyway, Rinako-onee-chan, I'm the medical support you get to have for your mission! Who's that loser over there with the black eye?"
Making good first impressions is clearly not Konomi's gift.
The elder of the Rurohashi siblings doesn't even have time to go check on her sister before she's sprinted (teleported?) back to begin screaming at the white-haired teenager like she was a demon-banshee returned to earth in human form. She probably shouldn't allow her sister to murder a fellow shinobi, even if that shinobi's negligence had resulted in a few scrapes. For surely Konomi wouldn't have done such a thing on PURPOSE! Just look at her! All smiles and white-hearted innocence.
Rinako begins to edge her way between her younger sister and the still younger sister-from-another-mother, acting as a physical barrier to prevent outright killing. Even she can't understand what's being shouted through the filter of Ruri-hate, but she can certainly intuit her look-alike's killing intent through their mutual twinpathy! She reaches out to grip her sibling's shoulders as if to physically hold her back from getting to the youngest addition to their mission.
"Don't kill her, Imouto-chan. Don't kill her… don't kill her, you'll go to jail and I'm not sure I could deal with-" Konomi is interacting with the others while Rinkao is doing her best to placate her sister and prevent a premature death. She doesn't even have time to acknowledge that the aforementioned is the one they have been waiting for. It probably doesn't make her sister any happier to hear that they'll be having to deal with each other's presence all night, which likely complicates Rinako's peace-keeping mission.
And eventually… they get underway!
Rurohashi Rinako spends a great deal of the night-time travel asking Konomi questions about what she's been up to since their last meeting. Of course, by virtue of being slower than everyone else, the jinchuuriki plays rear-guard the whole way there, but since there's no need for stealth as they leap and race across the dunes at speeds that would leave mere mortals in awe, she'll raise her voice if the younger teenager is traveling near the front of the group.
Arriving at the edges and circling around, or going through, the city isn't hard. No one is there to stop them, and few people would have the courage or power to try to stop a team of five women who are so obviously shinobi, especially given the shinobi reputation amongst 'normal' people for supernatural lethality. The night has worn on in the fast-paced traveling and the moon is hanging low in the sky by the time the entrance to the sewers looms ominously before them. It was the widest part of this section of tunnels, leading off into pitch-darkness, a constant trickle of water outpouring from it. The sides, ceiling, and floor of the circular-shaped sewer tunnel were coated with slim and fungi that grew in such places, making cracks in the concrete. Being such a lawless town meant that utility services were practically non-existent, and those that did charged extortionist prices, and as such, left the sewer tunnels, which ranged from wide enough for three to walk abreast to small enough that Shiikaa couldn't crawl through, completely unmapped. Except by local gangs, of course.
But then, the team likely had other means than mundane sight to track quarry.
The dark-haired elder Rurohashi sister stands in front of the foul-smelling orifice to the underground, hands on her hips, messy ponytail moving slightly in the fetid breeze constantly flowing out of it, a grimace on her face. "…Anyone got a light?"
Shemri eyebrow-twitches. "Ah…no, this is not a fact. I believe your mother is older than I am, actually." -.-; Why does it suddenly feel like Shemri's days of babysitting Konomi-chan haven't ended after all? Meanwhile, Shiikaa is feeling a little indignant himself. No, I didn't say I'm hungry, I was giving you all a warning! ^>.<^ Can't you *nomnom* tell when I'm looking *chomp* at something else? *gulp*
Shemri and Shiikaa follow along with the rest of the group, acting mainly as lookouts as per usual. When they arrive, Shemri covers her nose. Poor Shiikaa, always gets the worst of it in these situations. ^>.<^; "I have a few explosive tags," Shemri remarks, "although even if you just mean you want to burn out the gasses before we begin, that would be a bit overkill."
After being settled down from 'murderous' to 'not-quite-silently-intolerant', Rurohashi Ruri puts aside her immediate desire to find out who this brat is, why she thinks she can run around losing control of Puppets (because Rinako keeps saying it was CLEARLY an accident), and why she is mouthing off to everyone important to her. She puts it aside and joins in running across the desert. She keeps quiet except for the unhappy muttering as she runs at the middle-right of the group in a loosely 'diamond-shaped' formation. Also, she barks out lots of orders and demands and imperious queries, primarily directed at this 'Konomi' as Rinako has identified her, but she is more than willing to let her temper snap at anyone who gives her reason to snap at her!
"Don't you know better than to eat sardines while on a mission!? Eat a breath mint or something! I know they make them for cats too! That fish smell could give us away! You want everyone within a hundred miles to know there's a smelly ninja cat coming!?" Yes, not even cats are safe from Ruri's bad moods.
Eventually they arrive at this town place and they stand at the sewer opening, and Ruri's mood drops to a much darker and lower level, because she just remembered why they came all the way out here and what happened last time and the fact that Emu or the Ghoul or who-knows-what might be in those dark tunnels and she would just as soon send the kid in first to 'check for traps'. Before she can suggest such a thing, though, she first hears the question from her sister. Renewing her viciously unpleasant muttering, Ruri retrieves a chemical-based glow stick from her ninja tool pouch and turns away from the foul stench.
Quietly, so as not to have her voice go echoing up and down the tunnels, she says to Kara, "Have those haz-mat suits ready?"
Kara smiles at Konomi right up until the point where she starts indicating she believes Kara to be some manner of cow. A >black< cow. And she even mentions 'chocolate milk' from 'those things' and how grossed out she is.
If it were possible to display through a medium other than a manga or anime, observers might see Kara's self-control cracking and crumbling somehow even as she keeps on smiling. Instead, she retains control right up until Konomi turns her back and calls Ruri a loser. By that point, Kara has Pharaoh out and a massive cannon protruding from his mouth while she calculates the angle needs to >destroy< the little brat without hitting any known towns or settlements with artillery fire when the shell finally lands.
She doesn't wind up shooting, thanks to a convenient scene-change, however. Instead she frowns a bit while running along with everyone else, Pharaoh clinging to Kara's back and shoulders like an incredibly disturbing, mummified chimpanzee of some kind. She half-listens to the conversation between Rinako and Konomi and the irritable snapping and sniping from the Team Leader over to Kara's right. Yes, Kara is running at the front even though she is the >least< likely to be able to do fancy Taijutsu maneuvers if a surprise attack comes out of nowhere!
It makes it a bit easier to think, really. So much >noise< and she still has a lot of things to figure out. A Medic-Nin Puppeteer? Or a Puppeteer Medic-Nin? She isn't certain, but she's also uncertain of why such an untested kunoichi was sent with them. There's no >way< this kid can be either a skilled enough Medic that her lack of Kugutsu skills doesn't matter or vice versa with proficiency in Puppeteering! She wouldn't have had >time< to become that good at her age, based on what she had heard of when Konomi was promoted to Genin, and if she split her studies evenly between Puppets and Medical Ninjutsu then she would be mediocre in both… At best!
So what's the deal? Is this mission just no serious enough to send a >real< medic? Was this done as a favor to Rinako by letting her spend time with an old (young) friend? Is there something she's missing here!?
Sewer time. Yum. With a series of smoke eruptions, Kara has full hazardous material gear prepared on racks, with air tanks and so forth. "Right here, Ruri-chan. We going to set fire to the place like those other sewers or are we going to go with a different plan? I recall drilling down from ground-level was done last time, but I guess we won't know whose Chakra is whose this time around, right?"
Konomi is seated on Midi's back, in a sort of 'scoop' or 'built-in seat' or something right between its 'shoulder-blades'. Not that insects necessarily HAVE shoulders, but then most insects aren't made out of wood, full of medicine, powered by Chakra, or piloted by ninja, so it would be best to keep FACTS and LOGIC to one's SELF. Though she is using both hands to control Midi most of the time, allowing the Puppet to do her running for her, Konomi seems to be barely paying attention to the Chakra Strings she has going as she chatters animatedly and almost-without-breathing with her BESTEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD.
The last meeting between Rinako and Konomi had been about two years ago — that was just before the latter of the two kunoichi entered the Academy. Now having spoken or even SEEN each other in two years is a pretty significant period of time apart. This is especially true when one of these girls only turned 14 about two months ago. Konomi has lived nowhere near as long as Rinako and so even short periods of time feel far longer.
But that's okay, because Konomi is catching up 'onee-chan' on EVERYTHING, including the lives she has saved thanks to having switched vocations after being promoted such that she was no longer focusing on just being a Puppeteer and included Medic-Nin skills into her repetoire. The last time these two spoke, Konomi was capable of neither and the vehement refusal of her step-father to let the girl try to become a ninja meant that it seemed unlikely she would ever get the chance to learn ANY skills of the sort.
But here she is, gabbing and riding on a Puppet she built herself and she is part of an Emergency Medical Response team or something that is a newly formed group for ninja with 'unique' or 'special' skills that can serve untraditional roles or offer valuable aid in a variety of emergency/crisis situations. She is proud of how far she has come, and she is proud of how she is following in her 'big sister's footsteps. But she won't be TRULY happy until she has Rinako's approval.
'This mission is my big chance to show off what I can do! Onee-chan will, like, see how AMAZING I am with her own eyes, and then she'll totally DITCH that wannabe, and that bovine growth hormone experiment gone wrong, and it will just be BIG SISTER and ME! We'll form our OWN team and it will be, like…! Like…! Oh, man! I need an adjective! I knew I should have bought that pocket dictionary! Maybe I should ask Shemri-san. She probably knows, like, a ZILLION words for how Rinako-onee-chan's team will be when there's no more of this, uhh, dead-weight! Hah! Dead weight! Because that one chick has balloons on her torso and she has a mummy on her back, and the wannabe is just some kind of fathead! Hah! I crack me up, for serious!'
This entire internal monologue takes place at the same time that she is speaking-without-breathing at Rinako the ENTIRE TRIP.
When they arrive at the sewer entrance, however, she quiets down…
Just long enough to gather enough breath to protest very clearly and with no possible way of misunderstanding. "EWWWWWWWWW!" she lets out as it is suggested that they actually go IN that stanky tunnel. "I'll just, like, stay out here and wait for you all to come back, mmkay?"
"I'm no tactical expert…" The jinchuuriki tilts her head one way while fingering her chin. "But I think explosive tags will just alert everyone to our presence. Whatever happened to the good ol' method of spelunking and searching? Kunoichi are so lazy these days." Yes, Rinako did just call other people lazy simply because she was unable to do any of the fancy tracking maneuvers available to the other members of her team.
The jinchuuriki turns to eye the racks of hazmat suits. They probably wouldn't need those bulky, clumsy-looking suits just to enter the sewers, but she wasn't going to offend the feminine sensibilities of the others by telling them to forgo them. After all, just because Rinako had never been that much of a girl didn't mean that she had to make the others trudge through possible sludge. On the other hand, the foul water emanating was only a trickle, not even as deep as a puddle, so booted full-body suits were unlikely to be needed.
Then again, stepping into a pile of yuck in there in the dark with sandals on would probably be the height of unpleasantness.
Rinako eyes the insect-mount puppet, then the kunoichi who had loudly proclaimed her desire to stay behind. She frowns. "Tch, I wanted to take a ride on your doo-hickey, kiddo." Mostly to avoid the aforementioned yuck. "If you stay behind, you'll miss getting to pound the bad guy's face in, you know." Nevermind that they might simply find nothing but rats down there.
The service tunnel just continues to stand there emitting its foul odor and vile wind, as well as the trickle of nastiness coming out of carrying human waste along with it. "Just once, just ooooonce, I'd like to get a seduction mission that involves pretending to be someone's pampered plaything."
Shemri snorts. "Probably because you would be hardly any better at such deception than I would, Rinako-san." e.e Shemri peers at the haz-mat suits. "Ah. Aha. I shall have to put my sash on the outside. I hope that I shall not have too much trouble controlling it through this." c.c Shemri proceeds as quickly as she can, knowing that she'll probably take the longest to get suited up. When finally done, she gives her sashes an experimental flex. "Hmmm. A bit unfamiliar, but it shall do. About the same as what the suit does to my regular mobility." :P Shiikaa stares from under hooded lids at the evil-smelling hole. No gear for the kitty, of course. ^e.e^
Ruri shakes her head. "I agree. No explosive tags. That's ridiculous. Anyway, I guess we can do without the full suits. But give me an air filter and an oxygen tank at LEAST. Even if we're willing to cope with the environmental hazards, who knows what might have been flushed or dumped down here? There could be actual harmful chemical substances down here, or it might simply result in a different enough mix of gasses that we don't get enough oxygen and pass out. I don't know about you all, but drowning in a sewer tunnel is NOT on my list of things I want to do at any point ever, and we HAVE the means to avoid that fate right here, thanks to Kara, so let's just get our breather things and head in there."
Ruri explains her thoughts on a plan and says, "There's no 'city government' to pay for or organize these things, from what I know, so there's not necessarily going to be much of a rhyme or reason to how things are arranged. We have no map, and the person we're looking for is only BELIEVED to be somewhere in there. I have a jutsu I can use to find and identify Chakra in my sensing range, so I suppose I should just search for any Chakra levels significantly above a health civilian's, and that will determine if there's any ninja in there or not — and where!" She almost added on 'living' between 'any' and 'ninja' but didn't want to be that pessimistic.
"I'd REALLY rather not split up if at all possible, and it looks like there's plenty of room to ride around on that Puppet thing, so if anyone 'interesting' is in those tunnels we can climb aboard and avoid touching anything nasty and go right to that person. Otherwise, I guess we'll have to search the long and hard way… Looking for indications of combat, left-behind equipment or clothing, any clues left behind by this Genin for potential rescuers, or… Worst case scenario, we look for a corpse." She sighs. She couldn't avoid that line of thought after all.
She then takes the time to turn to Konomi and say, "I'm the team leader. You're assigned to my team. Work with us, not against us. Further… One, we fight bad guys, and two, the bad guys are in THERE." Considering the matter settled unless she gets further argumentation, she proceeds to use one of her Flesh Seal techniques… 'Isolation Location Seal'. Soon, a 'sonar'-like scan of Chakra 'sweeps' outwards in a gradually expanding radius around Ruri as she tries to identify anything resembling what the team is looking for…
Konomi gives a look of annoyed teenage girl towards Ruri at the lecture that interrupts her response to Rinako-onee-chan. Behind that 'pouting' look she feels great disdain and resentment towards this imitator. In her mind, Ruri is just trying to make up for all the many failings she thinks she has seen so far or imagines exist without observation by sucking up to Rinako and pretending to be an adequate sister!
Well, okay, maybe it's not THAT serious, but Konomi resents that Rinako has a blood-related sister who is so… So… NOT COOL, completely unlike Konomi herself (and Rinako of course). She'd be willing to team up with Shemri-san. She might be able to ignore that exotic dancer who probably danced her way right up to the Puppet Brigade's 'person in charge'.
But Rurohashi Ruri is basically exactly like the rumors she heard indicated. She is, in the words of second-hand rumors, 'an enormous dick'.
Though she does not refuse to obey Ruri's orders, she does snap on an addition to Ruri's list of facts. "Three, I'm OUT HERE and I have WHITE HAIR. If my hair gets ruined with stains from, like, some sewer puke or radioactive ooze or something, then you will TOTALLY have to pay me restitutions and shampoo my hair with, like, Ninjutsu shampoo or something every day until it is FIXED!"
Unlike Ruri, she does not grumble further and instead indicates that Rinako join her on Midi's back. "Come on, Onee-chan. Save your strength for when the fighting starts! No reason to walk on the ground with the -vermin-." She then quickly offers for Kara and Shemri to join her and Rinako on the Puppet's back as well. There does not appear to be room for a fifth person, though Shiikaa can likely sit in Shemri's lap. If her offers are accepted then she turns a smug smile on Ruri and says, "Oh, there's not enough room for you up here, 'Team Leader'! How totally disasteriffic! Well, I guess since you're the LEADER you should stay down there and LEAD THE WAY."
Rinako had to bit the insides of her cheeks to keep from smiling. Not that she approved of disrespect in the face of what might be imminent danger, but Konomi's irreverence struck a chord with her own sense of wry humor. And, of course, seeing her sister mad was kind of fun. Few people had the courage to say exactly how they felt to Ruri's face, and those that did usually ended up with a bloody nose, ears, or worse. The jinchuuriki clambors aboard the large puppet, seating herself wherever's appropriate/directed, holding onto whatevers handy to keep her balance for when the thing begins to move.
"Niiiiiiiiice. Does it have all-leg drive, power steering, and cruise control?" Well, at least as long as the white-haired teenager was talking to her, she wouldn't be inciting her younger sister to murder. The dark-haired jounin certainly wanted to play funeral director much less than she wanted to play peacekeeper. "Needs cushioned seats. Say, did I ever tell you about the time Ru killed a man by stabbing him in the face by simply looking at him with her eyes…?"
Regardless of differences in temperment, the group eventually has no choice but to enter the darkened area. The tunnels are a mess, yet most of the pipes were too small to easily fit down, especially while riding a puppet. The darkness gives way only partially to the glow sticks, clinging about the traveling women like a malevolent thing. Or perhaps that was just the nerves from their last trip through such an environment.
Meanwhile, Ruri's detection would lead them in a more or less easterly direction, occasionally making turns, but thus far able to stay within the main line itself, and thus not have to leave Midi and Konomi behind, no matter how much certain elements might wish to. Every now and then a soft silibant whisper of sound sighs through the tunnels, a moan of the wind, or a a barely-audible word. It's difficult to tell where it's coming from, with the way sound travels and rebounds through the intersecting tunnels, or if it's just the chill, subterranean wind that continually blows over the group of women with grotesque smells. Either way, it's probably really hard to hear over Rinako and Konomi's chattering. The jinchuuriki had never been very stealth-minded.
Shemri takes her place on the peculiar conveyance. "Ah. Aha. You are certain it will not tire you, carrying us all? Even if you are moving this thing with chakra, it must take some effort, this is a fact?" Shiikaa hops up onto Shemri's lap. This is weird, riding on a giant Small Crunchy Nom Critter made of wood. ^e.e^; Sure beats walking down there, though.
Inside the tunnels, Shemri ponders breaking rank protocol to suggest VERY FIRMLY to Rinako that she KEEPS QUIET…but after some consideration, she decides it's actually to their advantage to be heard. It would be a good thing if the genin they're looking for heard them, and as for the serial killer…well, barring a huge stroke of luck, they're not going to sneak up on the guy without knowing where he is. :P As far as getting an encounter with him, their odds actually improve if he hears them. They're his favorite bait, after all. e.e So Shemri focuses on listening for any sign that the group is being followed.
Ruri casts a glare back towards Konomi briefly at her retort when she so clearly sets off Ruri's title as Team Leader in such BLATANLY sarcastic 'sarcasm punctuation'. But though her patience is being ground away gradually by the little brat, she knows by now how to prioritize. If she didn't, she wouldn't have been made a Jounin. Infact, she wouldn't have survived this long at all, by all likelihood. It would be like stopping to fight each and every one of those automatically reconstituting zombies from that mission with the medallion or at the Siege, instead of putting together that something was controlling and fuelling the grotesque army of lurching, grey-toned, withered husks…
Ruri takes a moment to shudder slightly at the memory and the fact they're about to head into these dark, foul-smelling tunnels. Then she resumes her line of thought—Wait, she detected something.
"Got something—" she starts as Konomi basically says Ruri is vermin and that she's not welcome on that dumb bug-thing. She doesn't even turn around this time. She just responds with, "FINE." Then she begins moving into the sewers on foot.
Some time later, Ruri leads the way in navigating the chaotic jumble of pipes she reeeaaally doesn't want to have to crawl through on her belly or something, no matter HOW much of a 'hard-core bad-ass' she is supposed to be as a ninja, let alone a Jounin. Ruri is no longer sweeping her Chakra-enhanced awareness through the area in 'Detect' mode. She only found one detectable Chakra source, but it was weak and difficult to figure out much of. The Chakra source is faint, but it's also significant enough that she is pretty confident it's not a rat or gross creepy-crawly or someone's pet alligator that has been mutated by radioactive ooze after being flushed down the toilet. Though if they run into that last thing, the younger of the Rurohashi sisters is confident that her sister, Rurohashi 'Half-Shell' Rinaturtle could show that beast a thing or twenty!
Even so, she thinks that what she has found may be someone wounded… She's on 'Isolate' mode now, so other Chakra sources in the area around them or even around the target she has locked onto, are going to be more or less invisible to her. It would take a ridiculous amount of Chakra to even cause 'static' to the Isolate mode… But if there's THAT much Chakra, she'd kind of be worried if she WAS blind to it.
"Hey," Ruri calls, voice somewhat distorted due to the surprisingly sophisticated breather mask she is wearing. She didn't know the even HAD gas masks with digital read-outs. She kind of wonders what the red button and the glowing cyan light do and mean, but she doesn't have time to ask. If she doesn't get a response from anyone, she calls out again, hopefully loud enough to be heard over the chattering chimps on the ch… ch-something-that-is-an-insect's-name-that-starts-with-"C"-"H", and then says, "While I'm focused on the target I need at least one other person to keep an eye on our immediate surroundings. I'd also like a second with the ability to do so to keep her senses aimed further than just where we are. We all know how fast we can move, but there's others just as fast. Just because they aren't within audible range of us NOW doesn't mean they can't change that faster than we can react when we DO hear them. If we don't spot that fast-moving incoming first…"
She doesn't really need to explain in such detail, probably, but as far as she's concerned, Konomi is just a kid. She's a little girl, she doesn't know anything, and Rinako likes her. So Ruri is trying to teach the maggot something about environmental awareness and caution, so that MAYBE the young Puppeteer will be useful for something other than cannon-fodder or bait for a trap.
Kara appreciates the olive-branch offered to her in regard to riding on the Puppet named 'Midi'… Maybe they just got off on the wrong foot. But when Konomi so >smugly< points out the lack of room after Kara is already aboard, she decides that staying on there right now might — from what she knows of Ruri's personality (which is surprisingly a lot!) — see that as 'siding' with the newcomer. That could potentially drive a wedge between the 'original team members' and the 'ones that do not hate the new team member'. Even if just a misunderstanding, that kind of lack of trust or resentment could impact the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the group enough that at a critical moment… One of the 'old guard' might get into serious trouble, be injured badly, or even die. Kara knows such a thing is possible because that's exactly how it would go in a manga or something. Sure, the death of that one person might cause the new team member and remaining members to band together to honor the memory of the fallen by not bickering with each other, but that's really only anywhere near a positive or likely result in fiction stories. Here and now, Kara is convinced that none of them wants to lose >any< person on this team, and that means showing Ruri there's >not< some kind of 'Ruri vs. Everyone Else' dynamic here.
They have to work together, no matter how difficult it will be with an unfamiliar addition and no prior preparation for fighting with her at their side. Ruri had devised formations for various situations and tactics for use with five humanoid members (because Shiikaa is just assumed to be there), for those times when they team up with Nai, but those were based on knowing more or less what Nai was capable of, what he specialized in, his general attack range, and the trust and familiarity between the five of them that allowed them to move nearly synchronously and with almost no communication beyond what's needed to start off their maneuvers.
Konomi is a Puppeteer, just like Kara. Hypothetically, Ruri could have tactics or formations altered to include a second Puppeteer, but even so, there's probably a >huge< difference between specialties, Kara has no idea what Midi can do beyond transport people and apparently run really fast, and the fact that Konomi is also medically trained means she serves a support role instead of a combat role. Offense and defense are unlikely to be things the teenager focuses on.
This is a really nasty situation to be going on a serious mission during, but… One thing at a time. She says out loud, "Actually, Konomi-san, while I appreciate the offer, I think that it might be wiser if at least a couple of us weren't all grouped in the same spot. It will make it harder for traps, enemies, tunnel collapses, or similar to take down all of us at once." Then she slips off of Midi, has Pharaoh produce his Papyrus Reed Boat, and then she climbs aboard, prepared to hover her way through the tunnels.
…But only after putting on her breather mask, because that smell is making her want to >barf<! She wonders for a moment if anyone has figured out that the 'digital read-out' in each mask is the guts of a few digital calculators that Kara altered and which is set to randomly display a new combination of numbers every few seconds.
The 'pilot light' is just a blue lightbulb and the 'allergy filter control button' does precisely nothing. Not even one iota of functionality. That didn't stop her from telling Konomi that pressing the button repeatedly lets you breathe cleaner air~.
At Ruri's instructions, Kara confirms she heard and is following them with a nod and a verbal affirmation. "Hai," she offers. Pharaoh begins scanning the area with his built-in Chakra sonar. Interesting how Ruri managed to mimic Kara's utility with Flesh Seal techniques… Though she thinks Ruri's has a longer range, more mental 'clarity' of what one is tracking, etc. Kara's is a 'point and look' version, so she actually needs to manually adjust it rather than have a 'radius-scanning range'. If she spots anything even remotely suspicious, Ruri will be the first to know!
Meanwhile, back at the Baa-Bull Ranch…
"Like, no, I don't steer with my legs! Midi isn't a HORSE, of course!" Of course. "Unless, of course, there's some horse whose name is 'Midi'." Pause. "But no, not even then!" At Shemri's question when the mother and her cat ask about—Well, okay, just the mother asks. Shiikaa is busy looking like a furry who has gone too far in his quest to become a housecat and ACTUALLY BECOME ONE.
Konomi answers regardless. "I don't have to concentrate, really! For serious! Midi is TOTALLY able to just keep running at the speed of… Well, not the speed of lightning, because I heard that's fastericious? But like… 'Bam! Pow! Zoom! To the moon!' Anyway, Midi can keep running while I'm taking a nap, or if I got hit in the head like the 'Team Leader' did when she leapt in the way of Midi before, right? I can even set these dials so that it will stop automatically using my Chakra if it goes below a certain level, so that I don't get, like, COOKED or something bad like that!" Konomi demonstrates by fiddling with the dials while Rinako offers ideas for creature comforts. "Cushions… On a four-legged Puppet… That's supposed to be RESCUING PEOPLE!?" she asks shrilly and LOUDLY.
As Konomi finishes with the dials and then turns to face the older girl, she attempts to clasp one of Rinako's own hands between both of hers and look up at the far more experience ninja with stars in her eyes as she exclaims in adoration, "That's, like, the BEST IDEA EVER. I mean, no one wants to be uncomfortable, right? And if you, like, have a virus and it makes your leg disappear into the underbrush, because it's not actually a virus and is instead more like a tiger, then you're going to be grouchy enough already, right?" Whether she succeeded in grabbing Rinako's hand and praising her or not, she then turns forward to put her air-filter on as Kara offers it, not even stopping in her continuous stream of chatter (unless it's Rinako's turn to talk, but since their 'turns' seem to overlap — mostly at random intervals) to respond to the instructions, and instead just rapidly begins pushing the allergy filter control button so that the air doesn't smell as bad. "Well, those sick people won't want to go all the way back to the hospital with their butts hurting, right?" She pauses briefly to giggle because she said, 'butt' in front of her honorary older sister.
Then she resumes.
SOME TIME LATER…
"Stinky air is, like, STINKY!" Konomi declares, not caring if orders are being given or people are scanning or whatever else. It's not like anything WEIRD is going to happen, after all! "That's probably why it's called 'stinky air', you know? I didn't think of that before! What a total space-out! So anyway, this one time, some booger was all, 'if you use Puppets but you only heal people, what happens if you have to fight and no one's there to protect you' or something. So I told him I could fight just fine with healing stuff, and he was all, 'Nuh-uh!' and I was all, 'Yes-huh!' and then he DARED me to find a way to fight people with healing only! You get it right? A dare, Onee-chan. He DARED me! So that's when I got out some graph paper and started, like, sketching the design for the Antidote Machinegun—"
Is Ruri talking to her? Wait, Ruri's talking? If she is, then Konomi doesn't realize it!
As they continue along the main tunnel, the 'spine' of the network, the air only gets more foul, more rank, so much so that even Rinako feels the need to begin donning an offered respirator mask! She almost drops it when Konomi grabs her hand and begins making with the shiny-kitten eyes. "Uh…" It actually causes the older teenager to blush! "Yeah. Er, you know me. I'm full of good ideas." She cups a hand to her mouth and raises her voice, leaning around Konomi to make sure her sister hears. "You hear, imouto-chan? SOMEONE ACTUALLY LIKES MY IDEAS!"
Nevermind that almost ALL of Rinako's ideas could be traced back to 'napping' by six or fewer degrees of separation. She lets the younger girl do the lion's share of the talking, gave her more time to put on her mask, plus it was less time she had to open her mouth and taste the nastiness.
It'd be Shiikaa who heard it first, then likely Shemri, with her hunter's skills, followed by Ruri and Kara, and then finall the pair of chatterboxes. But eventually even Rinako manages to detect the noise and shut up, or is quickly told to do so, and will even clamp a hand over her 'little sister's' mouth as she stares ahead into the darkness just in front of her actual little sister, where the noise had come from. A human groan, unmistakeably different from anything the wind could have made.
Both Kara and Ruri would have no trouble closing in on the chakra signature the dark-haired team leader had been guiding them towards. It was fait, and it was coming from just up ahead! The tunnel suddenly widens into a chamber which has a disgusting pond made up of a nauseating miasma of toxic soup. Other tunnels, many big enough for Midi to fit through, branch off in all directions, though the darkness is so all-encompassing, suffocating permanent in here that the glow sticks fail to illuminate more than two feet from each person.
The chakra signature was definitely coming from here, as was the moaning, from a corner off to their right. Rinako slides down from the puppet, her feet hitting the ground with a *thup*. From the unseen corner comes a whimper, as if the sound of close footsteps had physically struck the invisible being.
"Imouto-chan? Should I check it out?" It never even occured to Rinako to look to her sister for hand signals or other silent communication, she was too busy trying to pierce the dark with her stare!
Shemri regards the dynamic between Rinako and Konomi curiously. Is Rinako-san actually talking less than usual? Interesting. Not a very good 'cure', though, considering the treatment involves more total words in the group. e.e And Konomi-san actually makes less sense than Rinako-san. She makes Rinako-san seem…mature, almost. o.O
But, there are more important matters to pay attention to right now. Hearing the groans, Shemri peers into the darkness ahead. It is pretty bleak down here, but the sharp senses of her clan serve her well…she can make out the surroundings within the chamber. Not that they're a pleasant sight. "I believe we have found the den of our quarry," Shemri remarks through her mask. "The remains of his prey are all around us." Shemri points in the direction of the groaning. "But that one is still alive. He is bound. Emu must have plans for him." Shemri takes one of the glowsticks and hops gingerly off the puppet. "Allow me. I am best able to retrieve him, and react if there is any trouble." Shemri picks her way over toward the living captive, preparing to cut him loose and bring him back to the puppet.
Ruri speaks once they have navigated to the right place via the combination of Chakra-sensing and the sound of pained moans (once Konomi shuts up, anyway). She would prefer more detail of that corner visually available, but other than activating her see-in-the-dark All-Eye, all she can do is put two and two together. It's a very weak and faint Chakra source, the guy is moving like he's injured, and she doesn't think this man has long to last if he doesn't get aid. She'll just have to risk it.
"No," she says to her sister, hopefully keeping Konomi from responding to 'imouto-chan' before the REAL little-sister can. Then she says, "Konomi, go with Shemri. Try to find out what's wrong with the wounded man and do whatever you can to help him. Try not to spend too much time on things that aren't immediately life-threatening. If he can be moved without worsening his condition, then we need to grab him and get out of here. I don't want to be here if or when Emu returns."
She can't see the 'remains' that Shemri mentioned, but she doesn't necessarily want to either. What she WILL do is place a number of strategically located Seal tags around the area and make cursory efforts to conceal them just enough that Emu wouldn't see them immediately just by walking into the room. Then she sets up motion-detecting tags linked to THOSE tags… By the time he enters this place, it would already be too late.
Ruri wants to just plaster the entire complex with every single Explosive Tag she has available to her, and any the others have too, and rig them to go off via wire traps or motion-sensing tags or similar… But she doesn't know what lies directly above them, and causing an inhabited town to collapse into the sewers, or some worse, unforeseen consquence of using that many explosions is not an option.
"Kara, keep aware of our surroundings. Rinako, we may need you to make us a quick exit. I don't want to waste time going through all those tunnels again."
Konomi quiets as soon as Rinako attempts to make her do so. She listens, watches, and though she can't really see much in this gloom…. Apparently this cat-wielding paladin has knight vision!
When she gets the news, she even ignores her dislike for Ruri long enough to leap down from Midi and have the Puppet follow her to where she is directed to go. Assuming Shemri advances to this wounded individual's location, and Konomi makes it there without incident, Midi already has a medical gear kit available via a compartment that has opened in its 'chest'. Likewise, two arms have unfolded and have rather spindly and skillful-looking hands at the end of them for precision work. Possibly even surgery.
Talkative though she may be, when things get serious, Konomi is immediately ready to do her job: saving lives. Depending on the state of the man (and again assuming she even gets close, in the event there is something unpleasant set up), she will do whatever is withint her knowledge, abilities, and physical resources to keep him alive… And hopefully get him good enough condition to be moved, if that is even possible.
"Huh? Me!?" Her sister WOULD ask the slowest one of the group to think of a way to make a 'quick exit'! Rinako's preferred method would have been to simply begin claw-punching her way to the surface through the bedrock. However, this was just as likely to cause a cave-in in such a shoddily-built tunnel, one which not everyone might survive. Also, it could collapse whatever, and whoever, might be above them and harm civilians, too.
So what DID her sister want her to do!? Surely she wasn't asking her to drown them all out of the tunnels. That was just as likely to wash away all the tags the younger of the twins was placing as kill them on the way out!
The man is lit in the pale green glow of the illumination sticks, revealing him to be wearing tatters of clothing, covered in all manner of filth from head to toe. He is obviously conscious, his eyes looking up at the women who stand over him with a mixture of apprehension, resignation, and defiance. It becomes obvious to Konomi even before his mouth gag is removed that his arm is broken, he has a severe laceration along the side of his head, in the hairline, and that he is covered in all manner of bruises, scrapes, and cuts, most of which are becoming inflamed and infected.
Untying him is easy work, as he does not resist, the knots were not complicated, and the rope wasn't very thick. Once the male is untied and ungagged, he is helped unsteadily to his feet, though he cannot walk without aid and one of his arms doesn't work. He looks about ready to fall over and/or apart at any moment. "We have… to get out… he'll come… back… monster… he's a monster…"
He keeps repeating the warnings over and over even as he's helped up onto the back of Midi to be carried. No sooner is he situated than Ruri is putting the finishing touches on her bomb traps and Rinako is beginning to corral everyone towards Kara's boat for thier 'quick getaway', than a fierce blast of wind comes out of the tunnel entrance Ruri is working on. Unlike all the other blasts of wind, this one comes with the unmistakeable sound of ferocity born upon it, a dangerous howling cry, like the blend of human and something far, far more feral. Ruri can feel vibrations in the stone as something unseen begins to charge at her from the darkness of that entrance!