Date: March 7, 2015
Atsuro and Kenta go over scouting reports from the teams that Atsuro sent to locate Lady Feather's whereabouts. The two uses sightings of abnormally large birds to triangulate her possible location to an underwater hideout near the Land of Waves.
"This Immortal Coil - Where the Wild Birds Roam"
Konoha - Atsuro's Office
Aside from there only being two people in the room right now, Atsuro's office looks more like a war room than a simple office. He's cleared off his desk, and now where there was once his day to day equipment, there's a number of maps laid out carefully, with mission reports stacked up on one corner of the desk. The reports include not just the missions pertaining to Lady Feather, but also those produced by the scouting teams he's laid out — those who have made it back to Konoha so far, anyway.
While Taizen sits on his haunches nearby, Atsuro paces around the table, looking at the large map. Atsuro leans over the table, a pen in his outstretched hand. "If they came from here in the Land of Snow," he says, drawing an arrow over the Land of Snow, "And we were coming from this direction at the monastery, then they /couldn't/ have been coming from that direction." He makes another mark at the location of the monastery in the Land of Fire. "That gives a rough idea of where to search, but then, what if they were summoned. When she summoned the bird at the village, it still came in from the air. So what does that mean then…?"
Kenta stands next to Atsuro with a few of the reports in his hands. He's trying to scan them, but there's a lot to go through. "Umm… maybe she keeps different types of birds at different hideouts? Takato-san mentioned something that suggested that when I went to give him a checkup yesterday." The young man glances away from the reports and up at Atsuro. "Both him and Hageshi-san have been gaining weight. They look healthier now, but they still didn't have much energy to spare for lengthy discussions. The ordeal that they faced really messed up their health and it'll take longer than expected for them to recover to normalcy. Ummm… Takato-san's parents actually shooed me out before we can talk too much, so that he can take a nap."
Kenta hands one of the reports that he was looking at to Atsuro. "This seems to be the latest sighting of Lady Feather. Ummm… possible sighting. Some very rare herbs were stolen from an apothecary in the Land of Rivers. The shopkeeper described an old woman as the culprit. She used wind ninjutsu to slam him into a wall and he saw two dull-eyed children behind her before he passed out. Ummm… so this was here…" Kenta places a finger on the Lady of Rivers, about two thirds of the way down its length, which is southwesterly from Konoha.
"I really hope not," says Atsuro, "So far, we haven't really seen anything in any of the hideouts that indicates birds are kept there at all. If she's got /multiple/ hideouts with birds, then that means we're missing even more." He takes a step back and looks over the map. Aside from the two notations he's made, there's a bunch more notes all over the map, detailing every incident connected to Lady Feather and every hideout, scouted or no. "I thought maybe she'd have a contract, but if she's summoning different kinds of birds, that wouldn't add up. Maybe if we had all teams search the sky for large birds and note the direction they're coming from… No, that'll just interfere with other missions. And… was the team counting the bodies able to account for every bird we've seen? We don't know if she still even has any or if she ended up killing them all."
He accepts the report from Kenta, giving him a small smile. "That's good to know," he says, "But we need to know more than that if we're going to use it. She seems to travel all over the place, so unless there was another witness who could say where they came from and where they were going, or something like that…" He leans over the map again and marks down where Kenta pointed to.
Kenta rummages around until he finds the report that lists a count of all the bodies at the hideout that the tracking device had led to. "Ummm… it says here that most of the dead birds were of the family Laniidae, Corvidae and Columbidae. It's about thirty five percent rock doves, ten percent shrikes, fifteen percent rooks, twenty five percent magpies and fifteen percent jays. They were all of various sizes, but all bigger than their normal counterparts. Only eight were large enough to carry a person of any size…"
The medic-nin furrows his brows. "That's definitely not all the types of birds that she can summon, Atsuro-senpai. We know that she's able to summon giant versions of members from the family Anatidae too, since she flew into the Land of Snow on swans and Takato-san was captured by a duck. Then, there's the giant fishing hawk that took Natsumi. We know that most of the Fledglings were taken by a wide selection of other birds too - barn owl, eagle, ostrich, pheasant, cormorant… That's only naming a few." Kenta chews on his bottom lip. He starts looking through the reports again. "There was a big stack of reports here detailing rumors gathered from villages and not just what the scouts saw with their own eyes. Maybe we'll find something about bird sightings there."
Atsuro nods slowly as Kenta summarizes the report for him. "In other words, she probably has more birds on hand. So we still might be able to track her this way — or at least find more bases — ones that would be in use." He turns away from the map, rubbing his chin as he thinks about the situation. "I wonder if they even want to work with her. The Fledglings didn't — and would the birds have been so committed to her that they'd let her sacrifice them? I think it's more likely they were forced."
He glances at the paper of rumours. "If the birds aren't being summoned, then they'd probably fly in a straight line, unless they run into a mountain range or something. Some might be on their way from one destination to another, but maybe if we mark down all the locations they were seen and draw a line along their bearing…" He nods to Kenta. "Can you start reading them out to me?" He opens a drawer on his desk and pulls out a ruler.
Kenta nods his head and starts to speed read all the reports that he has on hand. Many of them don't mention birds at all or note events that Atsuro had already marked down, so he sets those to the side. Whenever he does find a mention of abnormally large birds, he voices that to the Jounin Commander. This include the coordinates, or the village when coordinates isn't available, and the direction that the bird(s) in question was flying. There a surprising number of sightings, although very few of them were made by shinobi scouts at all.
"Ummm… there's a lot more of these than I thought," Kenta says after going through three from one report alone. "I have a feeling that some of these are real, but not some were the imagination or misremembering of the villagers that were interviewed. This next one says that an eight year old farmer boy discovered a huge penguin carrying a package in its mouth and swimming down a small river in the Land of Waves." Kenta furrows his brows in thought. "Maybe that wasn't imagination. The girl that you dropped a building on was kidnapped by a penguin according to Takato-san."
As he continues to mark down the coordinates and draw the lines indicating their bearings, Atsuro sighs quietly to himself. Well, she would have died later anyway. "That could be true," he says, "If she was captured by a penguin, then we can't rule it out. And if the penguin had a package, it could have been brining her something." He pulls the pen and ruler away from the map, looking to see if a lot of the lines seem to be intersecting or passing through the same general area anywhere. "Which river?" he asks, "I mean, it could have swam out to sea or come in from the sea, but if we know where it was, maybe it'll help."
Kenta glances over to the map. "Ummm… Seems to be around here," he says after double checking the name of the village. The young man presses a finger down slightly west of center on the large island in the southern sea that makes up the Land of Waves. "There's a very small tributary that runs from north to south in this location according to the report. It joins with several others that forms a modestly sized river that eventually curves to the west."
Once Atsuro marks down the location that Kenta just spoke about, the medic-nin continues to comb through the other reports. Twenty six rumored sightings are on the map now, but there's still more to come. A lot them are pretty evenly distributed - several scattered over the Land of Fire, one in the Land of Waves, two in the Land of Rivers, one in the Land of Whirlpools, one in the Land of Snow, a few each in the Land of Lightning, Earth and Wind. Scouts sent to infiltrate the Land of Water to investigate haven't returned yet.
Some of the sightings were more than sightings too. There's one cause of a giant hawk grabbing a chest full of special night-glowing pearls along its delivery route. The sighting near the Land of Whirlpools was of a pelican that swallowed half a school of extremely poisonous blowfish. Apparently, four of the giant eagle-like creatures that attacked the Temple of Embers also tried to attack a samurai fortress in the Land of Iron. A large chunk of bijuu-chakra infused scale that was broken off of Isobu in battle a long in the past is rumored to be safeguarded in the fortress. That attack was unsuccessful.
When Kenta points the river out, Atsuro marks it. And he continues marking for each incident, adding in the direction the birds were coming from and going when the witnesses have been able to provide that. "The answer's here," he says, looking down at the map with a frown, "It's somewhere in this data, we just have to find it." He diligently makes notes of what the birds were doing as well, and he pauses slightly as Kenta mentions the attack on the fortress. "Those notes from before mentioned that she would need a bijuu's power," he says slowly, "She tried to get it and she failed. I wonder if she'd try a second attack on that fortress. And since she was already repelled, she'd be stupid to try it with just the same resources she used before. She'd have to really commit to another attack…"
Kenta rubs at the back of his neck. "Maybe this means that she doesn't have a power source yet, unless she found something since that time." The young man goes back to the report that detailed the attack and reads through it again. "Umm… this attack apparently occurred two weeks ago. The herbs were stolen much further back, only about three days after the attack on the Temple of Embers. The night-glowing pearls were taken one week ago. The penguin and pelican incident occurred at approximately the same time - three and a half weeks ago. I'm not really seeing a pattern here, but I bet that all these are stuff that Lady Feather needed for that resurrection jutsu that she wanted to work on." Paper crinkles as Kenta ruffles through all the reports again one by one.
"So," says Atsuro, "She's sending the birds out to get the components she needs. They're different birds in each case, going after different items. They're probably not just backups of one another, since they're so different from one another — she wouldn't be substituting the pearls when she decided the herbs weren't going to work." He rubs his chin, "So then, what's with the timing? Maybe that's travel time from where they are?" He points to where the herbs were taken. "So if this occurred soon after the temple, maybe it was close to where they set out from. And then if we consider when each of the other attacks was made and where, maybe we can see them coming outward from a single point if we look at them in order…"
"Ummm… let me check where those were heading again." Kenta uses the ruler that Atsuro was using early to mark the path of the birds' flights one by one in order, assuming that they all traveled in a straight line to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Wind and weather patterns affect flying, so it's probably not that simple, but it's the best that they can do. The young man steps back and frowns at the map after he finishes. He visually checks the new lines against all the others that Atsuro had already placed. "Not all of them are pointing in the same direction…" Kenta starts to say. Then, he blinks and looks closer. He traces many of the nearly thirty lines with his fingers. "Atsuro-senpai. Do you see what I'm seeing too? Some of the lines throws things off, but there's half a radial pattern centered on the southern half of the map if you look closely. The focal point seems to be in the ocean itself, south of the Land of Rivers and west of the Land of Waves."
(The spot that Kenta points out is another hideout that you learned about from the Fledglings. Takato later provided more details. The hideout is on an island that's barely more than a chuck of rock jutting out of the ocean. It's underground again with the only access being an underwater passage that takes thirty minutes of swimming to navigate. The Fledglings always had to be inside deep swimming water birds to make it there when Lady Feather moved to that hideout. The island is also populated by thousands of seagulls that act as eyes and ears for Lady Feather.)
That's exactly what Atsuro had been hoping to find! "Kenta," he says, "You're a genius!" He circles the area the lines are indicating. "So, I was right. They were coming from some common point. And they must still be coming from that same point. There must be some island or something in that location. Kenta, I could just kiss you." C'mon, we have to ask Takato about this.
And when they do that, their suspicions are confirmed. The 'island' is actually mostly underwater, and the hideout itself requires travelling a special underwater passage that normally only water birds would be able to navigate. Finally, Lady Feather has posted seagull sentries around the island. They'll have to do more planning later, but Atsuro's mind is already coming up with ideas to get rid of the seagulls and get down to the base.