[attr="class","parchment-thread"]You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy... [break][break][break][break]Originally part of a larger recon team, some of Shoichi Azuma forces were pulled away from him by a sound jounin under orders of the hokage. He managed to keep a hold of his own direct subordinate Higa Toshio, but with the absence of others he was left with an odd pairing with the Hidden Stone’s biggest rival. Mai Aburame and Aiko Hyuga were the others who were left in place at their current position, no doubt creating an awkward and unlikely team. The eastern front of the town was heavily forested. Shinobi hid in the foliage, anticipating an imperial flank to infiltrate. [break][break] It had been quiet, although subordinate teams further east had not checked in on time. It seemed as if perhaps the empire had chosen a different approach. [break][break] There was unrest in the village behind them, embers ablaze followed by a loud screech that echoed across the land. As the screech ended, the birds of the eastern forest began to take flight. [break][break] Soon, the earth south east of their position began to rumble violently. Stirring hard enough that even those struggling against the fires in Onomichi could feel it. For the shinobi hiding in the trees out here, they would have to grip them hard to keep from falling. [break][break] Stillness returned for ten minutes after, and then approaching the recon team’s position was a figure running in the open from the east, wearing a headband of the hidden sound village. Recognizable as a kunoichi that had been working in an adjacent recon team, she was expected but very late on her report. [break][break] As she got closer, she did not seem to notice the shinobi up in the trees. Aiko Hyuga would likely see it before her arrival that her chakra network was wrong, just a spark of chakra in the center of the body. Visibly the sound of shinobi's eyes were blank and there were cracks in her complexion as if she were held together with clay. [break][break] As she passed nearby, the team would notice at least a dozen others passing their immediate area. Many shinobi from other recon teams in the area, running clumsily and without sentience towards the direction of the town. There were also bodies of imperial ashigaru that looked decrepit and were often missing limbs. They were all coming from deeper in the forest to the east. [break][break] They all seemed to be coming from the same direction, and they were all heading towards the eastern gate. How would recon 2 impact the battle?
[break][break] OOC: post once this week to validate entry into the event if you were tagged in this post.
[attr="class","cbody2"]From my perch atop a branch in the middle of an oak I couldn't help but sigh. Exasperation. Recon, it wasn't quite my thing, even if this recon mission had become a fraction more interesting than it once was. Don't get me wrong playing the floor is lava while we imitated tarzan was fun, but I would have preferred the front line. Regardless, my eyes narrowed at the strange movements of the shinobi we spied upon, their languish, nonsensical, and almost instinctual gait. I didn't need extrasensory abilities to note their alterity. They moved as if they had no control but purpose, and looked the better part of all but expired.
Happenstance had put me as the head of this team, comprised of both stone and rain; an amusing sentiment. The Oto-Kage was quite the character for doing so despite my disposition. I couldn't quite be sure what she had expected, but I had always expressed my distaste for the village, something that went beyond the simple idea of rivalry. Clearly, this was a test of some sort - and unfortunately I didn't mind failing. Still, for the sake of determining what was going on and making sure it didn't come to bite me in the ass I'd play along for a while - and also take full advantage of the situation.
"Aiko, Hyuuga." I spoke clearly, but kept the volume to a minimum, instructing the Chuunin. "Move toward the direction those . . things are coming from not where they are going. Our compatriots will have to deal with the ones that have pushed through. I'm more interested in stopping the source and they all seem to be coming from that direction, no? You're Vanguard as sensor. Aburame, Mai - you're center and Toshio will secure your rear. I'll move at the extreme back. I'm not suited to close-range battles. Intention is stealth until we understand a bit more. Go."
I waited for movement but added one more instruction, "Mai? No creepy crawlies yet." My hands imitated the fluttering of a butterfly. "A butterfly in the midst of carnage and destruction isn't exactly the most subtle thing."
"Ara ara, Asuma-san. I wasn't aware we were on a first name basis. Would Shoichi-kun do it for you?"
The Hidden Rain and the Hidden Stone were at war. Even if the Hidden Sound was meant to be a neutral area, banding the two together against a common threat was, perhaps, a little too much to ask. How much strength did one need to stand before the enemy and now unsheathe one's weapon? What about agreeing to follow their orders, much like a prisoner of war? In that sense, it was either fortunate or well-thought that Aiko Hyuuga and Mai Aburame had been assigned to this unit, for they could both bear this burden in their own unique ways.
As part of recon team, Mai had to accept that opting for stealth over direct confrontation was the correct choice for the time being. It was a little painful to allow the undead to pass by them, but it was a necessary step in order to approach the source undetected. In regards to the actual formation, the Jounin from the Hidden Rain could at the very least suspect that it was not the optimal setup, but did not raise any objections as she did not want to run into a dispute this early into the mission. Besides, being relatively close to her underclassman was a blessing she did not intend to lose her grip on.
"Be very cautious." She addressed Aiko, placing a hand on her shoulder. She knew just how capable she was, so there was no need for this sort of warning, but the gesture did have a purpose. "...Okay?"
Assuming the Hyuuga would depart first, their numbers would be reduced and the three important members of that team would be allowed a few more moments of interaction.
"... Do you really think so?" Mai's words came almost like a whisper that only the three of them could hear, addressing her commander's final order. "Carnage and destruction are the things that stand out in this forest, not the leaves of its trees or the insects that crawl over them."
To put it simply, this sort of battlefield was the best an Aburame could ask for. Though not every bug was combat-ready, the sheer number of them present in the terrain provided a number of advantages that wouldn't be available elsewhere, including silent information gathering. In a way, all Mai was trying to say was that Shoichi's request was both too demanding for this sort of setting, and came to late, as they've been waiting there for a good amount of time.
Before leaving to move on ahead, the Kunoichi would offer them one last warm smile, a testament of their innocence. And as soon as she would begin silently jumping from branch to branch, they would finally come to realize...
---That they had been speaking to an impostor. A clone made out of bugs, all along.
[attr="class","APP3"]As the group traveled through the forest, the sound of clinking bells filled the air. The group would begin to perceive duplicates of each member of the party traveling alongside them. Aiko and Higa were led away in a different direction.
In the confusion that happened in moments, two illusions of the chunin dissipated and Mai and Shoichi found themselves alone in the forest. It was an area of dense vegetation with tall trees and numerous weeds.
Despite the confusion they had managed to get out of the direct path of the reanimated without much hassle. From behind one of the trees came the sudden appearance of a grinning woman with dark hair, she flicked her hand forward and two senbon dripping with some sort of fluid flew towards Shoichi before she jumped back out of the line of sight of the two shinobi. She was using the base of the thick tree for cover.
How would Mai and Shoichi handle the sudden ambush?
When Aiko and Higa fell out of the illusion placed on them, how far they had gotten away from the jounin was an unknown. Would they be lost in the woods or find their ways back individually?
OOC: Short and sweet this week. Aiko and Higa will be removed from the event if they miss the next rotation. (Sorry for the shoehorn on genjutsu reactions//had to set up the potential for write outs. If Aiko or Higa makes the next post they can get right back to the battle.)
The senbon penetrated deep into Shoichi's chest, the woman was too stealthy and agile. She had the jump on them. The posion that laced the senbon was extremely rare and deadly toxin made from concentrated bodily fluids of an arrow frog enhanced with a chakra infusion. It was the only dose of the extremely rare poison that she carried, intended to take an important leader out of the picture. Within moments of hitting the Iwagakure jounin the poison would enter his bloodstream and his heart would begin to fail.
He stood still for a few moments before foam began emitting from his mouth. This fast acting poison was far beyond the skill level of all but true masters of the craft, as it would take ninjutsu capabple of extracting the poison very quickly and then performing more techniques to stimulate the heart again. It would be easily recognizable as veins around his neck would blacken. He fell to the ground. He dropped his spear, and if his body were searched there were encrypted scrolls that came straight from the office of the Tsuchikage on his person.
In the distance Jun Satō and Zazou Amanatsu were finishing off a group of zombies that had found Jun's sniping position. They would notice from afar Shoichi's fall, and the movements of the woman taking cover from Mai after her deadly assassination.
Higa would find himself entirely lost within the woods and outside of the battlefield. He should have paid more attention in navigation class.
OOC: Shoichi's fate seal was exectued. New entrants, if you can try to post within this rotation (the 24th)- but I understand if you can't because of short notice.
This action was administrative in nature to preserve continuity//the enemy shinobi is not carrying more doses of that poison.
[attr="class","torchic-post"] Jun yanked an arrow from the skull of a downed zombie, pressing a foot against the creature’s limp chest and bringing with it a weirdly dry eyeball. The marksman ridded the shaft of excess viscera with an expert flick of the wrist. He wouldn’t normally bother recycling arrows but the heat of battle raged around them and a single arrow could allow him to see his children again or not. This thought struck him just as out of the corner of his eye he clocked another jounin fall to an unexpected enemy. [break][break]
He glanced to the side at Zazou, a fellow Mist Ninja that had come to his aid when his position had been made. “Did you see that?” He said with a nod in the direction of the ambush that had just occurred. The woman was indeed skilled at remaining unseen. He watched as the shadows seemed to envelope her and she disappeared from his even his keen view. “I’ll try to take her out the next time she reveals herself. Try your best to draw her out, if you’re able, otherwise lay flat and play dead.” His tone was flat and free of judgement either way. He didn’t mind using the Aburame woman as bait instead but he wasn’t as confident about his timing if she were the target. [break][break]
Jun ran off and disappeared into the wilderness. He kicked off a trunk, grabbing the lowest branch and climbing up through the branches of a tree without rustling a single branch. He laid flat and notched an arrow, waiting with baited breath for any sign of movement be it near or far. If he spotted a threat he would fire immediately.
Something was wrong, that was for sure. Aiko could tell the moment the recon was late, and then when the woman finally arrived. Ignoring odd teams and politics, Aiko’s attention wasn’t on that matter. What came first was completing this mission, and it was already looking problematic from the start. Her eyes narrowed as the woman raced by, breath being held as if afraid to be noticed by the very person they’d been waiting for. [break][break]
The chakra networ-- [break][break]
Her focus was pulled by the sound of her name, even if her head didn’t turn to Shoichi’s voice. Her gaze remained on the growing presence of sound nin with very wrong bodies. She gritted her teeth, but nodded at the first array of orders she was given. Though she didn’t like the source of them, she could see the logic was sound. But as she began to rise up, Aburame’s hand grasped her shoulder. Aiko turned slightly towards her, even if her gaze didn’t meet Mai’s, she seemed to nod with understanding. [break][break]
It was then, she took off, aiming to go the direction of the source as instructed. Clicking on the radio in her ear, it’d be the best means to quickly contact Mai if something went wrong. [break][break]
Several minutes ticked by of Aiko hopping from branch to branch, before she suddenly found herself unsure of where she was. She was certain she had been following the path just fine, but now she couldn’t see it? An illusion? Genjutsu. A swift slap to her own face, and the forest remained unchanging. Damn it. [break][break]
No, she would beat herself up for this later, it was better to backtrack. Hopping back, she began moving back a few paces, the veins around her eyes tightened as she pressed on to find either more of those undead shinobi, her own team, or whoever had messed with her in the first place. [break][break]
[ Sensei, someone’s in the woods ] she spoke through the radio, to alert Mai as she worked on her return. [ A genjutsu must have caused me to lose the trail, but I’m working my way back. Are you alright? ]
TLDR: Using Byakugan. Took off ahead to try and find the source of the zombies?. Got lost due to a genjutsu. Talking to Mai as she tries to navigate her way back to the group, unaware of their ambush.
The ambush was swift, unexpected and well-carried out. More importantly, it was directly aimed towards the man who was not just the leader for that operation, but also arguably the strongest soldier in the group, at least offensively, leaving them somewhat lacking for the encounters to come. There was little Mai Aburame could do to prevent said sealed fate from coming to fruition, the senbon digging themselves deep into the Stone Jounin before her or her clone had any chance to react. The tools of choice and a glimpse of the ominous liquid they were coated with... Yes, because the Kunoichi from the Hidden Rain was well acquainted with such methods, she instinctively knew the moment she saw them reach their prey, that Shoichi would be dealing with something far worse than the injuries a simple needle could inflict.
Her insect clone, which had remained closer to Azuma's group than the original, quickly backtracked and somehow managed to intercept the falling body of the man as it slid through the branches, barely managing to avoid him sustaining more damage from the fall. It was a rather ironic image, her small and fragile frame being able to lift that of a much taller man.
Unfortunately, life was already gone from his eyes, a large amount of foam coming out of his mouth... He had been subjected to poison of the highest caliber, one that not even an expert in toxins such as Mai could counter-act in time. There was no time to lament... They were in the middle of the battlefield and now the entire operation was at risk. If at least one person knew that they were there, it was likely that much more did as well. Recon? No, this was like walking through the front door with the enemy fully aware that you are coming. It was dangerous, and much more so for a group that wasn't exactly geared towards that sort of encounter. Indeed, without Shoichi, neither of them was ready to act as the vanguard. Now the clone had the important task of relying this information to the original and the rest of them, so they could tackle this as a group. Sadly, being little more than a mass of insects, all the equipment that it carried was no more than an illusion. To counter-act this, it shamelessly drove its hand into Shoichi's pouch, grabbing a number of ninja tools. Among them were two shuriken, which would be tossed in unison, seemingly towards the tree were the enemy had last been seen. However, it would soon become evident that the target wasn't meant to be the sapling, as the projectiles would miss it by a few inches. As soon as that happened... The shuriken, which had been thrown too close to one another, would collide, the impact firing one of them rocketing towards the spot where the attacker presumably had been hiding until a moment ago at unexpectedly high speeds. The goal was to at least get her foe to at least show herself again.
Meanwhile, the real Mai, who was pretty close-by since the clone couldn't operate without her being around, had chosen to observe the situation from a different angle, while remaining concealed. Having observed the departure of Shoichi from a distance away, she readied her own poisoned tools to return the injury seven-fold. Though the Stone Jounin was a sworn enemy and she would not shed tears after the fact, his death was an upset big enough for her brain to immediately discard any sort of good-will towards her new opponent. Considering the Aburame never really showed mercy on the battlefield, going beyond that was... A scary thought, to say the least.
If she did in fact get a visual on the enemy, she would give the enemy a taste of her own medicine.
"It's an ambush, they know we're here." She answered Aiko through the comms, her voice so soft it would be barely audible to the Hyuuga. "Our former leader is down and I've lost sight of the other stone shinobi. Be extremely careful on your approach: The enemy uses deadly poison. Do not directly engage "
At this point, Mai didn't need to voice that Aiko was their biggest asset and advantage. Her personal feeling would put Mai against the idea of exposing her to this sort of danger, but between the undead and the living opposition, the situation had already escaped their control. The Hyuuga being a talented Chunnin with a gift for leadership would have to decide on her own how to face this unexpected turn of events.
Zazou lifted his blade and gave it a sharp twitch to the ground, wiping off the blood of a zombie that had recently fell to the ninjato. He'd come to aid his Mist comrade, though he didn't expect the situation that they were in to escalate in such a way. Something disturbing was happening in this forest, away from their eyes, but the presence was felt through-out his entire body. It fought against their humanity in a way he couldn't describe.
"I see her." There was a calmness to Zazou's voice in the acknowledgement of Jun's question. While it was easy to get worked up over such a thing, knowing he was fighting an enemy more than likely several times stronger than him was causing a rush. With steady breathing, he remained on a level field. He couldn't afford to slip and end up dead here.
That being said, he had no plans to play dead or try and worm his way out of the intensity of the situation. Rather, he was ready to put it on the line. An unknown enemy, capable of moving like silk through shadow and largely keeping her surroundings undisturbed. Not the type of foe you wanted to let plan their attack at leisure.
His head snapped as he watched two shuriken collide, ring out in unison, one of which spiralled towards the area the woman appeared from. Zazou leapt to the trees above and clambered over thick trunks and branches, making his way so he overlooked the area the shadow sunk into, his ninjato grasped in his hand - ready to make the leap down and engage if the opportunity presented itself, but keenly aware his allies were ready to do the same.
He would make sure not to get caught in the crossfire.
[attr="class","APP3"]With a flick of her wrist from behind the trees, the woman first threw out a small log. Following that, onlookers would see three copies of the woman appear as she ran out from behind the tree, weaving through brush and the trunks of other trees for cover. She was bouncing back and forth in zigzags and so were her clones.
Mai would have a chance to get in one good throw at one of the three clones. One each left, right, and center. This woman was definitely a shinobi and not the standard imperial agent, her tactics were extremely deceptive, and she was well trained in acting with stealth. Mai’s decision was made somewhat clearer for her because one of the clones slipped up and touched the ground in an area of thick vegetation without disturbing it, leaving the center and left the best possible guesses.
For Jun from afar, the three clones were moving in a line and too distant for him to completely make out which one might be the real deal. For the moments he saw them at his position there was one closer to him, one near the middle, and one further back. He could also see Mai to his right and the assassin and clones were moving towards her general direction.
But there was company! From the brush came a zombified man wearing a Kumogakure headband that rushed towards Jun with a kunai in hand, Zazou would have to stop him for Jun to get a chance at a shot.
Aiko got back to the fight on the opposite side. With her byakugan she could easily make out Mai to her left. The clone that was furthest away from her was the real thing, the others were intangible clones. She had the best eye for the shot, but the worst positioning.
[attr="class","torchic-post"] By the time Jun was in position, the woman had already obscured the area making it impossible to guess which clone was the real assassin. However, it was clear as the three versions emerged from the shadows to attack that he would need to take this opportunity to eliminate one of them. He couldn’t allow another jounin to be taken off the battlefield. [break][break]
Jun was a big proponent of a sure thing so he chose the copy closest to him and drew the notched arrow back with a steady inhale.[break][break]
His amber eyes flicked to the side, detecting movement nearby, but he had the target lined up. Now was the moment and his attention returned to the assassin as he released the arrow. Holding his position as it whizzed through the air. The triumphant anticipation of a critical hit being too intoxicating to ignore. [break][break]
He wasn't certain how these zombies kept finding him. They didn't track like normal shinobi at all. It was frustrating and frankly taxing for a jounin so accustomed to evading direct combat. All he could do now was hope fate would intervene or else that he could somehow avoid taking any major injuries. [break][break]
A rustle from the bushes and a shadow of movement. Initially Zazou thought it may have been the woman, but it was another one of those mindless brutes charging off for his comrade - the same time he was trying to make a shot. In a split second, he decided on the best possible move he could use to take the foe down without compromising his team-mates safety. Putting his own body on the line.
"Hm!" A bend of his knees and the Chunin darted, sword firmly grasped in his hand. Using jutsu would have only made matters worse, inflicting friendly fire wasn't going to be something he would consider. He was confident he could beat the speed of the zombie before it made it.
Twisting his wrist ever so slightly, he ramped up his speed and leapt, attempting to drive his blade down onto and through the neck of his foe and drive it to the ground. Even if it lived through the ordeal, the important part was pinning it and buying them a fraction more reaction time of whatever was to come.
Zazou only hoped that the interception wasn't in vain, and that leaving his back exposed wouldn't haunt him - though he was certain Jun would have his back as he did for him.
[attr="class","APP3"]Zazou’s pinning managed to stop the zombie from interrupting the archer. Despite being pierced down, it didn’t seem to stop being animated, shifting its arm in an almost impossible way as a mixture of blood and soil seeped from its wounds. It grabbed for Zazou’s left eye, trying to stick a thumb inside to poke an eye out if he didn’t move to stop it.
Jun’s shot struck true against a real person, penetrating the torso of the woman. She let out a cry of pain and clutched at the arrow but managed to resist the urge to pull it from her side. She panted and rushed forwards, but inaction from the Aburame allowed her enough time to slip past at a reduced pace. She could be chased or even followed by her blood trail, but her cry had also brought the attention of several thralls.
Seven decrepit imperial zombies would make their way around the position of Mai Aburame. Five of them rushed towards the clone Mai with rusted swords drawn and dispersed it and caused the insects to flee. Two of them would immediately move to grab the body of Shoichi and started to drag it further into the woods. Afterwards the remaining five would begin moving through the woods. Two in the direction of Lyro and three in Mai’s general direction. While not the perfect scouts, they might eventually stumble upon their hiding places if they were not given attention or if the two did not move.
Near Jun and Zazou came a group of shinobi from the messenger team. Some on horseback, some on dogs, some moving like beasts on all fours. The situation in the forest seemed to be growing dire as there had at one point been multiple recon teams, but only this partial one seemed to be still fighting.
There was another vibration in the grounds of the forest that would cause everyone a moment of off balance. What birds had remained quickly fled into the sky. Something was happening further to the east.
Bursting through rows of foliage with ninja hounds at her sides, Makoto was relieved to have finally reached decent cover. The charge across Hisashi Road had been a reckless one, but at least her squad couldn't be chased by horses among all the trees. Although it seemed horses would be the least of her worries, given the sounds of combat coming from nearby.
"Keep movin'! We gotta make it to the front!" she barked to the others, urging them to push forward at the same breakneck pace. The Inuzuka didn't even look back to assess who was still following - if they couldn't keep up they were good as dead. There was only one ninja she could confirm was likely at her heels, which Makoto figured out by scent alone. "Pup! Yer in charge! I'll get the message to the forces 'ere while ya lead everyone south!"
Aside from a firm growl, those were the only instructions Makoto gave to her kinsmen, Nikukyuu Inuzuka , leaving no room for discussion.
With her mind already made up, Makoto and her ninken diverged from the path a second later, shooting off toward the sounds of ongoing battle. "GATSUUUGA!" she then hollered at the top of her lungs, plunging into the forest in the shape of a wicked cyclone. Her intention? Fly right into the thick of the fighting to disrupt the enemy of course! Though the jounin had no clue what kind of battle she was charging into, the pair of familiar scents that lied ahead gave her the only information she needed to know.
"JUN! ZAZOU! WITH ME, NOW!"
Notes: tl;dr makoto tryin to help her fellow mistees and left kyuu in charge to reach zone 2
[attr="class","torchic-post"] Jun’s eyes narrowed at the wounded assassin as she ran off into the woods some ways away. He’d hit something solid; not as fragile as a clone. At hearing something of a struggle nearby he would notch another arrow and shoot down at the right eye of the zombie engaged with Zazou. He gave a nod of appreciation to his current teammate. “That’s twice you’ve-” [break][break]
He ducked down as movement came from all sides, a fresh wave of undead swarming the battlefield at the worst possible time. Jun noticed the fallen jounin being dragged away and popped out from behind cover just long enough to fire an arrow at one of the zombies that had grabbed the man. He didn’t know how the Empire’s dark magic worked but he didn’t want to end up fighting defeated members of the alliance brought back from the dead. The thought sent a chill down his spine. [break][break]
Just then, reinforcements arrived and he was relieved to hear a familiar voice leading the charge. He ran alongside her as she passed their position. He had so many questions. What news did she bring? Where were they headed? There were probably a million things he hoped Makoto could tell him but there was only one that sprung to his tongue, “Hide- Have you seen him?” [break][break]
Jun would listen to whatever Makoto had to say but would point out a trail of blood as they approached the place where he had last seen the assassin. “We can’t let her get away… she’s not like the others.”