Drak

The Detractors: One

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Mission Name | The Detractors Part 1
Mission Village | Lightning Village
Mission Type | Village Mission
Ranking | A-Rank
Repeatable? | Yes; Once Per Character
Mission Description | Our asset near the border has informed us that one of the local politicians is bringing in outside help in an attempt to wrestle power away from Yamagakure. We need to put a stop to this, eliminate the hired muscle and either convince the politician to fall in line or make sure he is no longer in a position to be a threat. We'd prefer you not kill the politician, his death would only cause his sympathizers to rally. 
Mission NPCs |  3 C-Rank Shinobi, 4 B-Rank Shinobi, 1 A-Rank Shinobi. 
Word Count | 1800 or 5 Posts Each
Requirements | Must have 2 People

Hitomaro didn’t have to try very hard to blend in, no he had drunkard down like a pro. He almost laughed at the thought as he sat on the stones surrounding the base of a large tree. Next to him was a wrapped bottle, it wasn’t liquor this time but it sure as hell looked like it, not only that he’d made sure to stumble and laugh sporadically like he was incredibly inebriated. It was important to be a traveling drunkard, from what the information he’d gotten from the documents in his manilla folder said there was likely to be trained eyes all over the place. He laughed sporadically and added a forced hiccup to the end of it, just for added effect.

 

Soon he’d get the signal and he’d shuffle off back into a nearby bar, order a drink, hopefully catch sight of his white haired partner and meet with their lanky asset. He was supposed to be a tall guy, brown hair, sunken green eyes. Hojo Soun, strange name but Hitomaro didn’t have much of a platform to stand on with the name thing. Soun was a local power player of sorts, if politicians wanted to win the vote of the local miners they needed to go through him, not that he was a miner or anything, hell he wasn’t even very liked by the miners from all the information Hitomaro had gathered since arriving a day and a half ago. Soun had inherited the pulley platform system that allowed over two hundred hard working men to travel back and forth from the lowland towns into the mines every day and back again. Being the man that held the key to transportation gave him a lot of power, it also required a lot of friends to keep from losing that power to someone with a bit more ambition. So Soun made a deal with the devil of sorts, he’d push Yamagakure friendly politics in the region and in return the village would make sure that his assets remained his assets. It was a pretty good deal, but every now and again the village was forced to step in and deal with a bit of local unrest.

 

This visit wasn’t necessarily about Soun but it did require the information he had. Soun had passed some information up the ladder that caught someones attention, apparently one of the older, more stubborn politicians had decided to call in some outside help to try and force the Yamagakure influence out. That wasn’t something the village was happy to hear about. Not long ago this was one of the politicians that had quickly fallen in line, a man who benefited from the new Kage’s economic stimulus policies, something had changed to make him take a clear anti-Yamagakure stance.

 

Hitomaro stood up, he made sure to stumble a bit as he did, then grabbed his wrapped bottle. No drunk worth his salt forgot his nectre. He’d seen the flash in the bar window, now he just had to make his way over. He moved slowly, wobbled a bit as he went, he wanted to look like a drunkard not so drunk he couldn’t function.

 

The bar was a small wooden building with large windows on both sides, the door was worn at the edges from the constant sliding open and closed while the handle had long since lost any of it’s shine. A good bar had a worn out door. He pushed through and with a slight creaking walked into the murmured din of the interior. There were tables everywhere, the marks on the wooden floor told him that at one point there had been order to their placement but that had long since ended. He moved to the long wooden bar and took a seat, slumping his shoulders in a very tired way so that the dark v-necked t-shirt he was wearing hung off his athletic frame. He was pairing that with dark brown cargo pants secretly stuffed with a few important ninja tools and black boots that would be common in the mines. He blended in pretty well, now he had to hope that his companion had managed to do something similar.

 

The asset was already in the bar, but Hitomaro knew better than to look around for him, no he needed to keep his head down and not draw attention. He was just a normal drunkard passing through for some work, nothing more, no reason for anyone to look twice. When his asset moved next to him the white haired woman would get the signal from wherever she was sitting to join them, that is, if she was there.

 

OOC:So we are going to talk to the contact, he will give us some info on the politician we are dealing with, the shinobi he’s hired, and where to find them. At that point we will get into the messy details.You can feel free to start that conversation with him or just get into the bar, wither way is cool with me.

@Hanako

 

  

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The exchanging of manila folders had not been limited to just two people. One had found its way into the hands of Yamagakure's head medic. The set of instructions included in this folder were modified for Saisaki as she was only supposed to observe how Hitomaro and Hanako operated while concealing her identity from not only the residents of the Voltage Lands, but from the Lightning jounin as well. It was meant to be a training exercise for the young woman, to learn more about covert ops by watching, and in a sense, participating, but there was a single clause included in her orders; only engage if agents were a no show. Considering the actual participants weren't arriving together, there was always a chance of an extended delay or even their cover being blown.

 

Saisaki hadn't expected such a thing to actually occur, yet here she was pouring drinks for raucous patrons and watching Hitomaro sitting alone since establishing herself as a tavern wench had been the easiest cover. She knew that he was waiting on the contact mentioned in the files, but to anyone else observing him, the blond just looked like a typical drunk. Not that many people would be watching Hitomaro with Saisaki moving around the room servicing people, at least not while she was in the low-cut and short hemmed dress she wore. More than once she found herself slapping hands away from where the rough-spun material flared away at her hips. The environment was grating to Saisaki's sensibilities, but it was hardly the worst position she had found herself in given the events of the last month. in truth, she almost preferred the rowdy atmosphere to the cloak and dagger nature of her other work that kept her from the hospital.

 

Several minutes passed from the initial signal given that had led Hitomaro to his table, yet there was no sign of Hanako no matter how often Saisaki scanned the room with her one exposed eye; the other sapphire orb was hidden behind a waterfall of dark tresses that cascaded down the front of her entire left side in soft waves, rather than confined to the usual braid behind her back to obscure her identifying scars. Hiding beneath the hair was almost like a security blanket for Saisaki. Perhaps it was what enabled her to act a little boldly. She waited until she saw a brown haired man near Hitomaro at the table he had chosen before sweeping the room once more for any sign of Hanako then approaching the two men after they had a few moments to talk or communicate to themselves if need be.

 

"Can I get ya anything else," Saisaki asked while gesturing to the bottle he had brought in and adopting a drawl befitting her assumed identity as she placed her hand on the worn surface of the table and leaned some of her weight onto it. She flashed Hitomaro a fake, but deceptively warm smile. Her visible eye flickered over to the brunette, but came back to rest on Hitomaro as she waited for a reply. It took less effort for him to fit in than it did for her. There was a glimmer of understanding in regards to why he was assigned to a mission like this despite the unprofessional manner in which he had shown up to the meeting where he had received his assignment.

 

[Mission: 562/1800]

Edited by Saisaki

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Soun did just as he’d done a dozen times before, he got out of his table seat near the window, shuffled over to the bar next to Hitomaro, and ordered his favorite drink. Whiskey sour, simple, kind of boring, the blond didn’t put much thought into it, what was important was the way he said it. Soun inverted the order, rather than saying whiskey sour he called it sour whiskey. The bartender, a well built man with dark tanned skin and hair tied into a ponytail that ran midway down his back, gave Soun a confused look before asking him to restate it, the second time Soun said it right.

 

Hitomaro hadn’t interjected, he didn’t even look at his target. The blond simply slouched his shoulders and huddled around his bottle like he was protecting it from thieves. What Soun had done was code, something the last shinobi had set up when he built the contact. Inverting the drink order twice was a way to give the nearby agent warning that they’d been made, once was telling him that someone was watching closely. It wasn’t a bad system, after all the bartender was easy to read and tended to follow a simple prediction model, it was all just like Hitomaro had read. That would explain why the silver haired young woman had yet to make her way to the bar. If she noticed too many eyes she was to pull out as quickly as possible and wait for Hitomaro to set something more controlled up. It sure made the task at hand a whole lot more difficult.

 

Nothing was exchanged between the two, it wasn’t safe to even try and communicate with the lanky man at this point. But that wasn’t going to stop Hitomaro from getting the needed information, hell this was why they sent a guy like him; he was supposed to be good at thinking on his feet. He bit the tip of his finger so that just a slight bit of blood dripped out, then he put four dots in a pattern on a nearby napkin. It was like directions, a pre agreed upon signal to the contact that the meeting site had moved to the fourth option. Now all he had to do was get it to him without the eyes noticing. At that moment the third member of the team popped in, the member that was meant to be an observer and backup if things really went south. Hitomaro couldn’t have been happier.

 

The scarred brunette placed her hand on the bartop between he and Soun, she gave the contact a quick glance before returning it to him, then and did her damndest to sound like she fit in. Had Hitomaro been a few drink in he would have laughed uncontrollably at the straight laced young woman; but given the situation and his life being on the line he was all business.

 

Hitomaro slid his bottle towards the space between he and the contact sitting to his right at the bar before turning in his chair, reaching up the young woman's dress, and yanking her in by the back of her thighs. He did this with deft speed but not so fast anyone watching would think it abnormal, with her talent she probably could have even stopped him, but he hoped she would play along. Her chest would fall forward and rest just on the right side of his face, he’d use the cover to say “Hit, hard, with left hand.” quickly and just loud enough that she could hear him but no one else could while the crowd erupted. But how could he possibly have known the crowd was about to erupt in cheers? Because he was going to be giving them something to cheer about.

 

As the young woman fell forward from his pull he would slide his right hand further up, lifting the already short skirts and showing off the young woman’s well toned backside. While he did this he’d pull his left hand back, the hand he was holding the napkin he’d marked in, and slide it into the front waistline of her undergarments. He’d use their closeness and the bar to shield his left hand movement from view, but he’d make sure she knew he put something there.

 

If she reacted as he wanted he’d probably be feeling it in the right side of his face for a while, but once she hit him he’d flail, knocking his bottle over and spilling it all over the contact, at which point Saisaki would hand him the napkin, like a good bar wench should. That would set the second meeting location, then all Hitomaro would have to do is lie in wait to identify who the contacts tail was.     

 

I mean if you read this post you know exactly what I just did, and I loved it.

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The grating sound of the glass bottle dragging across the worn wood of the bar top pulled Saisaki's hooded gaze downward and away from the blond. It was a mistake on her part that would initially benefit Hitomaro, but one that the latter would inevitably pay for though she paid for it immediately herself. Clearly, the woman hadn't learned from their initial encounter, but she was treated to a refresher when she felt Hitomaro's hands gripping the back of her bare thighs. Shock paralyzed her, giving Hitomaro no resistance to the tug that forced her to fall forward into a compromising position that only got worse from there.

 

The blood that was pounding in her ears and flooding her cheeks made it almost impossible to hear what she was being ordered to do in so hushed of a tone that no one else could pick up on it, but she had gathered enough of it to understand what Hitomaro had wanted and the nest of writhing emotions in the pit of her stomach made it more than believable when Saisaki reared back and slapped him full across the face with her left hand. The sound of the impact was sharp enough to puncture through the din of the crowd cheering about the unwilling exhibition. She had held nothing back from the strike, but fortunately for the wannabe drunkard, her left hand wasn't her dominate one and the force had been dispersed across the surface area of her opened hand, rather than localized in one area. Sure, he'd be feeling it and maybe he'd even be bruised, but nothing was broken.

 

Her own hand stung from the strike, but the pain kept Saisaki grounded in the moment. Despite having been angered by what her fellow shinobi had done, he had done it for a reason and the ploy had worked. No one but Saisaki had noticed the napkin he had slipped into her panties to rest against her hip. She capitalized on the joint distraction from when she had slapped him and the follow up of the liquid from the bottle being spilled to deftly extract the napkin, which she handed to the now dripping contact after sneaking a peek at the contents.

 

"Sorry about that, hun," Saisaki said almost sweetly and still with the same adopted drawl before turning to the bartender. People were too focused on her and the blond for them to retreat from the scene without looking odd, so Saisaki had to give them a valid reason to do so. That meant causing a scene. Granted, one that was a little less lewd now that her skirt had settled back in place, much to the dismay of many patrons. "I've had it with this place," Saisaki growled. "That's the third time this week that this has happened! And I still refuse to pay for breaking the other guy's nose." Hanako wasn't the only one that had been late to the party. Saisaki's cover had been established long enough that she had already had incidents with other people, though nothing quite as bad as what Hitomaro had done to her.

 

The bartender had the decency to look contrite on behalf of his customers and attempted to pacify Saisaki; losing a waitress wasn't a big deal unless it was right before the weekend as was the case at the moment. "Look, Seika," he started, calling Saisaki by the moniker she had chosen for her undercover identity; it was close enough to her real name that there was little to no hesitation in her response when she was addressed by it. "Why don't you take the night off and come back tomorrow? You've earned it." Saisaki pouted and put both of her hands on her hips then nodded in Hitomaro's direction, asking, "What about him?" The bartender looked at Hitomaro then to Saisaki and back again to the blond before he thumbed at the door. "If you want him gone, he's gone. Take a hike, buddy."

 

Anyone not still focused on Saisaki and Hitmaro had been bored enough to go back to their drinks, either way, no one had been paying attention to the lanky man that had been doused and apologized to by the waitress. He had managed to slip out without notice, except by those that had been expecting him to. Saisaki made a derisive, "Hmph," noise as she waited for Hitomaro to leave, before she'd storm off through the back where the kitchen was and the rear exit, as any employee would. She could try to meet up with the blond and/or the contact once they weren't being watched by so many people.

 

[Mission: 1333/1800]

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It happened just as he’d hoped, or perhaps it happened just as he’d planned but feared. His hands moved with the skill of a man who’d reached up the skirts of numerous women, and then his face reacted with the fear of a man who’d felt the wrath of said women on numerous occasions. As the young woman’s left hand came swinging across his face he braced, ready to turn at the contact to avoid the damage, but what actually happened was much faster than he’d expected. Her hand flew through the air and caught him before he had the chance to turn his face away from it, forcing the soft flesh of his inner cheek into the edges of his teeth. Not only that he didn’t need to pretend to flail, the shot was stout enough that it really did send his neck careening to his left, arms swinging to follow his shoulder.

 

At the last second he made sure to aim at the bottle, sending it spilling into the lanky contact next to him. The look on his face was absolutely wonderful, completely shocked and surprised. Hitomaro didn’t get a good look at it, given the force he was struck with, but it almost made him laugh. He finally caught himself on the bar, nearly out of his seat, face throbbing, leg covered in a clear liquor, and sour that he was so good at coming up with plans on the spot.

 

"Sorry about that, hun,"

 

She mocked him, or at least it felt like that was what she was doing. He gave her a sour look laced with aggression, he wasn’t actually upset but he needed to sell it a bit. From that moment on she proceeded to lay down cover for the contact, he almost blew it with a smile. She was young, a bit naive, but she was a natural. She berated the bartender, a smart move that she’d clearly out some time into. Going undercover wasn’t always something people were good at, and given her scars and the way she hid them the blond tended to assume she didn’t like the interaction part of a cover job like this, but she was a helluva asset.

 

“If you want him gone, he's gone. Take a hike, buddy."

 

She played him perfectly, Hitomaro stood up, slurred a few curses at the bartender then stumbled towards the door. He’d done it so many times drunk that doing it sober almost felt like a natural walk, he really needed to consider cutting back.

 

He pushed through the doors, glares masking appreciation from the customers followed him as he went. It was natural, he’d cost them their attractive young waitress for the night but he also gave them the best view many of them had ever seen, Hitomaro was a bit jealous as he stumbled out the same worn door he entered from. He reached out to balance himself against the bar before circling around behind it, spitting blood from his mouth as he circled to the back.

 

He was going to meet up with his partner who now had the perfect excuse for sneaking out of work to salvage her cover. He made sure to dodge the windows, moving quickly and swinging his body around them, not that there were more than two in the entire dingy little establishment. When he reached the back of the bar he pushed his back against its wooden frame and slid into a sitting position as he rubbed the side of his now tender face.

 

The contact would be headed to an old building on the outskirts of town, it was safer for them to create a bit of distance at this point. If he was still being tailed they needed to make that tail slip up and deal with them, if Soun had lost them during the commotion all the better.

 

When the back door finally opened Hitomaro had the gaul to let his jovial nature get the better of him, “I’ve got to say, you really have great form.” He meant both, slap form and rear shaping. She really did keep herself tight where it counted.  

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The stinging in Saisaki's hand was renewed when she grabbed the bag holding her belongings from the backroom before she dipped out of the door only to find Hitomaro sitting outside and waiting for her. She felt another surge of anger initially, but as she looked at him and the swelling that was starting to spread across his cheek where she had hit him, it was replaced by guilt. Of course, the blond decided to ruin it by opening his mouth again. A sigh was the only response Hitomaro received before Saisaki knelt next to him after looking around to make sure that no one was watching them in the back alley.

 

"Stay still," she murmured then formed a series of hand seals before gently touching his face. The pain she had caused him would be alleviated along with what actual damage had occurred to the flesh. She retracted her hand once the job was done and added a soft, "I'm sorry." Her eyes roamed over the area again as she began braiding her hair with a practiced hand. "You can't be seen with the waitress," she said before Hitomaro could ask what she was doing. It would have been odd had anyone from the bar seen them together after the incident given the heated tempers; or at least she thought so. Once her hair was in its normal state, she reached into her bag to pull out tan tights that she slipped on beneath her skirt before removing the latter, along with her top to reveal the black tank top she had been wearing beneath it. Her previous outfit was shoved back in the back and stowed behind the trashcans where she would pick it up later that evening. She avoided looking at Hitomaro during all of this given what had just occurred between the two, but once she was done, she looked backed to him and self-consciously crossed her arms over her chest.

 

"Do you think it's safe to follow now?"

 

[Mission: 1666/1800]

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Hitomaro was shocked by the young brunette woman’s calmness as she turned to face him, sure there was a moment of anger but she seemed to have gathered herself well. He’d been almost certain that she’d be the type to hold his actions against him, it was a nice change of pace for an attractive young woman not to turn into a raging demonic psychopath on him. Then again there was never really a chance of her becoming nearly as violent as his past acquaintances. Saisaki was measured, trained, maybe a bit naive, but her natural talent made it clear that she wasn’t the type to let her emotions dictate her actions.

 

She kneeled next to him with a slight look of annoyance before telling him to hold still and forming hand seals. He did as she said, he didn’t care how much he poked at her he never felt like she was a threat to him. It may have been unwise, but she didn’t feel dangerous to him. She reached out and touched his aching face, immediately the pain subsided and a warm feeling replaced it. The lopsidedness he’d felt vanished and the sores from his cheek being forced into his teeth disappeared in a moment. It was a pleasant feeling. He’d so rarely been so lucky to have a healer on hand, he felt awfully spoiled for a change.

 

"I'm sorry."     

 

She nearly whispered it and it almost offended the blond Shinobi. Did he seem fragile in some way? It was an odd feeling to be offended that the young woman thought he needed her to apologize for hitting him. He bit his tongue, no need to start a fight here. He’d been playfully jabbing at her since they met but he’d not once let anything he said to her get personal, he’d not start now.

 

"You can't be seen with the waitress,"  

 

She moved with quick grace as she pulled on tights, somewhat disappointing Hitomaro, and then continued to transform from cute, seductive barmaid into sleek, effective minimalist. He looked her up and down, not even attempting to hide his action, she might have worked the skirt but the tights definitely showed off the figure he’d given almost everyone in the bar a more thorough look at. He was definitely jealous.  

 

“You were more natural when you were acting.” He said, ignoring her comment altogether. She was standing in front of him, crossing her arms, and acting like a sheep after he’d already seen a bit of the wolf. “Am I going to need to strip you to get the confident decisive you or can you just kind of turn it on when you need to?” he was verging on condescending at this point.

 

“I’ve got an idea what we might find when we go get that informant, I need to know that you’re going to act when I need you to.” She hadn’t hesitated to hit him when he asked, but she was angry, the meekness worried him. He took a step forward, closing any gap that she may have left between the two of them so that he could stand taller than her and look into her eyes. She was young, he remembered what he was like when he was young. He needed her to show him something a bit more wild, something a bit more like what he’d found in the bar. Maybe without the physical damage, but he needed something more than just a healer if he was going to walk into a potential ambush.

 

Once she eased his worries he’d lead the way, not by normal means but by quickly scaling the nearby wall and dropping into an adjacent alley. In most situations he’d go from roof to roof, the problem with that was it would leave them too exposed, no this time they’d need to navigate through back streets to get to the old building. There was a great lookout before they reached it, a large tree with just enough foliage this time of year to keep them out of sight, they’d use it to spot whoever it was that tailed their asset.

 

Hitomaro didn’t know what had spooked Soun, he hoped not to find out, but if things didn’t go as planned he needed Saisaki to act. He hoped she was up to the task.   

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The once over that Hitomaro had given the woman went unnoticed as she had changed clothing, but it would have been forgotten almost immediately even if Saisaki had picked up on it because he went from silent watcher to active antagonist in a handful of seconds. He had moved so close to her after spitting out his criticism that she could feel the heat radiating off of his body in the space that barely existed between them. Between that and the way he had intended for his words to cut, Saisaki couldn't help the flush that rose to life across her face yet again. The blushing may have been involuntary and beyond her control, but she fought her natural reaction to cast her gaze aside and managed to hold eye contact with the man.

 

It was an awkward and nearly excruciating experience for Saisaki, but she didn't let it show. Hitmaro had even pointed out himself that she seemed more natural when acting; hiding her feelings was second nature to her. Suppressing them was almost as easy. As far as coping mechanisms went, it was completely unhealthy, but that was how she functioned in her day to day life from the moment she had to deal with the death of her parents and the loss of her home. She had to remain calm, stable, strong even, for her brother and that had eventually translated into her training as a medic and taking care of patients. Dealing with any medical crisis that might pop up meant she had to keep her cool, no matter what was going on. The breakdown could come later when she was alone, not that she had time as of late to properly process those moments in time that really got under her skin and it was those particular moments that Hitomaro was calling to the surface with his accusation that Saisaki couldn't get the job done.

 

"You've met Kabel," she said, her voice even though a little stiff. "Do you think he would have assigned me as backup for you if he thought I was incapable of completing the task in case you and Hanako messed up?" She might have exaggerated Kabel's faith in her and the personal context of her mission file, but he had been sort of training her himself. Everyone knew that she had followed the kage off on mission after mission and anyone that knew him understood what kind of man he was - one that didn't risk failure. That meant he at least trusted Saisaki a little. She had completed the test he had given her as well. It wasn't an accomplishment that filled her with pride, but of regret even though she had, as Hitomaro had put it, acted when she needed to.

 

"I'll do what I must to ensure the safety and future of Lightning. Our missions go beyond ourselves." Her final words on the matter hinted at the festering wound inside. Doubt dogged the steps of most shinobi after they had accrued decades worth of blood on their hands, if they even lived that long themselves, but all it had taken was one painless and bloodless assassination for Saisaki to question the almost exclusively violent ways that her people had of solving things - at least that she had seen and experienced first hand in her travels. Upon returning from the Earth Village, she had seen the same newspaper that Kabel had been reading when she came in for her debriefing. The headline had been about the death of a politician. She knew the circumstances of his death as she had been the cause, but the article had been more in depth than that. It told of his life, his accomplishments to help his people, and his family.

 

Saisaki had often wondered after reading the paper how his family had reacted to the news of his passing and what they would think of her if they had found out that what looked like natural causes had been caused by young medic and a little purple flower. The signs had been there in his day to day routine and his office that maybe he hadn't been willingly a part of the dealings with the rogue shinobi, but Saisaki's orders had forced her hand in spite of this knowledge. It figuratively left a bad taste in her mouth and everyone, including herself, telling her that it was something she just had to accept didn't help her soft heart. She knew not every situation could be handled differently, but Saisaki also knew a lot of bloodshed could be avoided with the right information, contacts, and actions. It was just a matter of mastering the different pieces. Lingering in an alley mid-mission wasn't the time or place to reflect on such things though, so she would follow the blond's lead on the situation.

 

Fortunately, Hitomaro wasn't a mind reader and what she had said seemed to at least temporarily appease him. He moved to abdicate their current hiding spot and Saisaki followed as he scurried over the roof and into the next alley. After a few moments of maneuvering through the town's less used passages, Saisaki spotted the large oak that rose to meet the dusky summer evening skyscape above it with a crown of greenery that would have made the trees back home in Kami Forest jealous. It was the best option for the pair to gain the high ground for information gathering purposes while hunting the hunter and gave them the only real chance of hiding themselves out in the open that they could get. Her companion apparently agreed as he adjusted his heading to lead them toward the tree. The emptied edifices that the tree sprouted between so close to the outskirts of town where their destination truly resided provided cover for them to climb into the stout boughs without being seen, but Saisaki still swept over the surroundings with her heavy hooded eyes, looking for anyone that might be trying to turn their game on its head. She saw no one though and ascended into the tree. While the canopy concealment was more than she could have asked for, it still left her feeling exposed and she twisted her hands into a pair of seals and she seemingly melted into the shadow of the trunk cast by the leafy branches and the fast fading light of a sun that had almost dipped completely below the horizon.

 

[Mission: 2739/1800]

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Hitomaro reached up the tree, climbing it quickly and quietly after Saisaki had done the same only a few moments earlier. His mind had turned from his worries about her confidence and focused quite acutely on the mission at this point. That being said it may not have appeared that way as he climbed up to a branch just below the young woman before leaning his back into the tree trunk and resting his eyes for a moment. He wasn’t trying to sleep, but he’d know when to move. He wasn’t carrying his gear, it made him lighter, quieter, and while he’d now found out there was danger he wasn’t entirely worried.

 

“If they are tailing him then they’ve already got a good spot to watch the house.” Hitomaro said in a hushed voice to Saisaki. “Standard practice would have them watching all the approaches, the problem is I don’t think there is more than one guy watching him.” Hitomaro was gambling, it was possible he was wrong but it was a gamble he was willing to take based on the evidence he had. First, no one ran out of the bar after he’d slipped out. That told the blond that whoever was watching Soun didn’t follow out of the bar or was never in the bar to begin with. The other possibility was that they were working in a team, so it was now time to draw them out, however many there were.

 

“So we just wait.” It seemed like the dumbest idea possible, but given how little information they had it was the only real option they had. Eventually Soun would get tired of waiting and leave in a huff. That’s when the people watching him would have to move, that’s why Hitomaro wasn’t in any rush to get there. The tree was the ideal place to watch the house, but also the most obvious. It was the perfect place to lay low while the people watching the informant thought they were outsmarting them.

 

Hitomaro reached up, pulled his weight onto the large branch Sai was using, then squeezed in behind her. He placed his left hand on her waist to hold her in place, knowing her first reaction was to squirm away, then with his right hand he pointed towards the old house. Soun was leaving. “Don’t move too much, I’m using you and your nifty little jutsu for cover.” he leaned his head in and whispered into her ear. He didn’t need to do any of this, he could have done the same thing himself with the shadow melding, but he was bold and she was more effective when angry.

 

“Now watch the tree line around the house, the other buildings, let me know if you see anything.” He moved his hand from her hip to her stomach, if she’d let him. At some point he figured she’d catch his game, but if things went south on him here he wanted to be sure that he at least died with happy memories.

 

His eyes scanned the area around Soun as he walked, he would have to pass the tree to return to his home, it would be the best place to snatch him. They had a couple of minutes though.

 

Hitomaro, a bit more focused on the young woman he was currently holding than he should have been, didn’t notice the movement behind one of the smaller abandoned buildings closer to the town. Clearly someone was using them for cover as they tracked the lanky man’s movement.

 

 

Just wanted to harass a bit more, given the mood I’m in. If Sai notices the movement it would be far off to her right and she should let Hito know, otherwise this turns pretty messy.

Edited by Drak

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Evaluations of the situation given to Saisaki by Hitomaro were mentally filed away by the former. After all, Kabel had sent her along more to observe and learn than actually participate, despite what Saisaki had told the blond during their brief confrontation about her skills. She would have to ask him later how he came to his conclusion about only one person tailing their contact. In fact, she had actually intended to do so right after he said that they would wait, but he followed up the less than complex plan by pulling himself onto the branch where Saisaki had chosen to cocoon herself in the shadows of the tree. There was a stifled squeak of surprise when she felt him force himself behind her and reached his arm around her waist to hold her in place.

 

Hitomaro's assumption that she would squirm was right, but it was somewhat negated by his hold on her. Still, the inky chakra she had wrapped herself in to hide wavered as she moved, but settled back in place once she stilled. There hadn't been much room between Saisaki and the trunk of the tree, so their bodies were as close as they could get given the situation. Again the heat that radiated off of Hitomaro livened up Saisaki's countenance with a vivid pink hue that spread across her cheeks. She found herself glad that he couldn't see her face and it at least seemed like he was actually focusing on the mission as he pointed in the direction of their end goal and claimed that he was using her for additional cover. Given that the female didn't know that he could use the same technique as her since she had been taught by Kabel, Saisaki believed him and let her eyes follow the trajectory of his gesture to the old house.

 

Focusing was hard given the proximity between herself and Hitomaro. She could practically feel every muscle of his frame as he held her back against his front. It was even more awkward than when he chided her, yet it was almost comfortable at the same time. There was a strange desire to just sink back against him and forget the troubles of their mission. It wasn't a sensation that Saisaki was familiar with and she found herself shaking her head to clear her thoughts and in the same moment, her jutsu released itself. Much like Hitomaro, she was more distracted than she should have been and Saisaki knew it. She needed to extract herself from the situation, especially now that the blond had slid his hand over her hip and across her abdomen.

 

"I think we should just go meet with him now," she said. There was no basis for this other than the two of them were getting further away mentally from their objective - a point proven by the fact that both of them had missed the movement between buildings due to their own activities. Saisaki reached to move Hitomaro's hand away from her body as she took stock of Soun's current position, intending to drop down off the branch and meet up with him if her partner didn't stop her.

 

[Mission: 3267/1800]

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She wasn’t quite as squirmy or uncomfortable as Hitomaro had expected, maybe she was finally warming up to his touch. It was an odd thing to smile about, but he had. She smelled a bit like the wild mixed with the numerous familiar smells of a bar, it was strangely nice. If she hadn’t been so close to the Kage and they not trying to salvage a fairly important mission he might have used this chance to make a move, after all she hadn’t completely closed the door yet and what better time to make a move than with his arm wrapped around her while they cuddled in a tree? He’d made do with less advantageous situations in the past, but she had to ruin it for him.

 

"I think we should just go meet with him now,"

 

She tried to get free, Hitomaro wasn’t obliging just yet. “No, I’ll go down you wait here.” She was right, it was time to refocus and get this over with, after all he’d not seen any movement and Soun was probably already good and mad enough to be reluctant to share his information. After he made sure Saisaki wasn’t going to leave the tree he let his weight fall to the right, caught it on a lower branch, then dropped to the ground with an audible thud. He felt the impact in his knees, the first sign that he was starting to get old. He forced that thought out of his head, his mortality was the last thing he wanted to think about at the moment.

 

He straightened up, wiped away the bark from his clothes, then proceed to make his presence known to the nearby Soun. “Happy to see me?” the shadows of the tree would help keep most of Hitomaro’s features hidden, but the blond hair was a pretty glaring giveaway to anyone who knew what they were looking for. Soun’s look of surprise quickly turned into a look of indignant rage, clearly a man of his stature wasn’t used to being jerked around too often. Had the lanky man not been so terrified of losing the Denkikages support he wouldn’t have even entertained the blond at this point, but Hitomaro knew that Soun didn’t have a better option.

 

“What took you so damn long?” Soun hissed as he nervously looked around while proceeding forward. It was at that moment, had Hitomaro been more focused maybe he could have avoided it, that a thin projectile came screamed through the air. It wasn’t exaggeration, something about the thing tube with holes in it caused it to screech, unfortunately Hitomaro couldn’t react in time and could do little besides shift his body and watch as the odd projectile pierced through the side of Soun’s neck and planted in his own upper left shoulder.

 

The force drove him into the tree but the projectile didn’t do much more than make hard contact with the bone mass in his shoulder. He was in survival mode now. Soun was bleeding on the ground in front of him, holding the hole as closed as he could in his neck. Hitomaro grabbed his arm and drug him around the other side of the tree, hopefully escaping the line of sight for whoever was firing the weird screaming projectiles at them.

 

Hopefully they hadn’t noticed Saisaki in the tree, she didn’t have many places to go to if they had. Hopefully they’d only seen him.  

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Saisaki's attempt to extract herself from the literal and figurative shadows was very nearly futile. Hitomaro had no intention of letting her squirm away from him and he had better leverage in the situation, but he acquiesced to her reasoning after a moment and chose to descend the tree himself, leaving the medic in the safety of the tree's concealment. The space behind Saisaki felt almost cold and barren now without him there even though his presence had been fleeting. Blue orbs tracked Hitomaro's movements as he dropped to the ground then confronted Soun.

 

It appeared that Saisaki wasn't the only one the blond enjoyed needling. His nature leaned to the informal side, but he had to have earned his rank somehow and given the current kage and the one before that, it was unlikely he had gotten there through favoritism. Her musings over Hitomaro were cut short by the sounded that pierced the air. It was an unfamiliar noise and from her particular angle, she couldn't see what was causing it until the projectile pierced through Soun only to impact into Hitomaro afterward. Neck wounds were almost always bad news and by the amount that immediately gushed from the wound, Saisaki knew it was bad. She didn't have much time for visual evaluation because her partner was quick to react and drag their bleeding information outlet around the tree and out of the direct trajectory path of the initial attack.

 

The tree would provide cover for Hitomaro and Soun, but if the assassin already had eyes on the area, moving from the cover of foliage as she was would likely bring an attack upon herself. There was a simple method to move where she needed to be at Hitomaro's side though. Her fingers intertwined into a new series of seals similar to those that had cloaked her in shadows, but this time the jutsu gave her the appearance of a squirrel. It had been two months since Saisaki had last taken the form. The previous occurrence had taken place deep with the Kami Forest under the steely gaze of a man she had not seen since. She had been trying to hide then too, but had failed. The attempt had been good practice for what she did now though, scampering around the tree in a visually smaller state meant she was harder to see and even harder to hit, which let her drop down to the ground unscathed next to Soun and his savior.

 

A slight puff of smoke indicated the end of the transformation technique and Saisaki's full figure properly appeared knelt at Soun's side. "I'll take care of him," she said to Hitomaro, her hands already forming yet another string of hand signs. "See what can be done about the sniper, but please be careful." Saisaki placed her hands on either side of the small, but dangerous, wound and let her chakra flow from her palms into Soun, causing his cellular regeneration rate to skyrocket. The skin and blood vessels knitted themselves back together almost instantly and eased the pain as well as stopped the bleeding out. "Stay down," the dark haired woman whispered and moved her eyes away from her patient to scan the surroundings. She was ready to toss up an earthen barrier should they need it, but she wanted to take Hitomaro's lead.

 

[Mission: 3823/1800]

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Hitomaro didn’t have time to feel the pain in his shoulder. He leaned his back against the tree, looking side to side to make sure there were no other shooters. His heart rate was raised, his breathing steeper, his body was reacting to his mind telling it that he was going to die. He forced that thought down like closing the lid on viper in a jar, he’d felt it and conquered it too often to let a little flesh wound push him over the edge now. He smiled a bit, then in a slight puff his companion appeared in front of him. “Well aren’t you a sight, come to grant a last wish before I die?” he joked a bit, it was his way of alleviating the worry and tension. He knew it probably grated on the nerves of the people who worked with him, but they almost always came back alive.

 

He smiled, chuckled a bit, watched Saisaki put hands on Soun and begin healing him. No more shots came screaming through the air, nothing jumped out from either side of them, Hitomaro had to assume it was a single shooter. That had gotten him into trouble before. He reached his left hand up to his wounded right shoulder, dabbing a bit of blood on his fingertips before completing a quick row of handseals before touching the ground.

 

From a puff of smoke a small black Salamander with little red lava bubbles appeared in place of the blond haired Shinobi. Hitomaro didn’t know how well schooled Saisaki was in summoning stuff, he hoped him disappearing into a small salamander didn’t scare her too much.

 

Once Nimle, the small black skinned salamander, was summoned she immediately started her salamander sprint towards where the bolt came from. This was his ace in the hole play, worst case scenario the guy shooting the screaming bolts at him would know he was coming, but given he hid inside the summon out of sight it seemed unlikely that his cover would be blown. It was a long way for the salamander with tiny legs, Hitomaro had to simply hope that Saisaki would be safe behind the tree while he made his way to the new target.  

 

So I hid in a summon and am currently very sneakily making my way to the houses the dude shooting at us is using.

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With events having taken a deadly turn, Saisaki had been thrown into a hyper focus. It was not so severe that she suffered from tunnel vision, but it did filter out the levity Hitomaro had tried to provide and she ignored his words in the most benevolent of ways. His actions were a different matter altogether. Her eyes darted away from Soun as Hitomaro concealed himself within the tiny summon he had brought forth. Though he did not collaborate with her on his plan and they had not worked together enough to develop default routines for different scenarios, Saisaki figured he was doing one of two things. The first, and most probable, option was that he intended on using the small stature of the salamander and the landscape plus distance of the shooter to his advantage so that he could sneak up on the aforementioned attacker. The second option was far less favorable and Saisaki didn't know him well enough to dismiss it entirely; he could have been retreating alone and abandoning them to their potential fate.

 

Both options could be initially handled with the same set up on Saisaki's end. "Keep low to the ground and don't move," she whispered to her charge as she continued to kneel next to him. However, the medic was anything but idle. She formed a brief line of hand seals that caused a static field to emanate from her for a ten meter diameter around her. It was invisible to the naked eye, but anyone caught within it would feel a tingling sensation as the electrical force washed over them, making their hair stand on end. Anyone that had the ability to see chakra or electrical fields would find themselves nearly blinded by the orb of light that this appear as for them. Saisaki knew nothing of the target's capabilities, but it was better safe than sorry, especially with a sniper. That wasn't even the full reason she had cast the jutsu. Any living creature that moved within the field, she'd be able to sense as their own electrical impulses resonated within the haze and translated back to her. There were the usual small creatures that shifted through the static, registering as nothing more than slight pinpricks that didn't distract Saisaki from larger game. For the moment it seemed that only herself and Soun resided within the range of her technique and that was fine, because she wasn't done yet. Three more signs unwound themselves from her fingers and pulsed more chakra into the existing charge she had brought into existence, enhancing it with attributes that allowed her to not only sense movement, but vital signs. Her focus was restricted to the bloodied contact. She knew him to be fully healed even before she put a tap on his body's output, but she had done it for a reason that went beyond her role as healer; using the information she gained pushed Saisaki closer to the realm of mind reader as she returned to the depths of her hardened mission facade.

 

"I've no intention of risking my life to protect someone that isn't going to give me what I'm after," she hissed into Soun's ear as her eyes darted around furtively, visually inspecting for what her jutsu might not have caught, her hands still together and ready to toss up an earthen barrier or to sink into the ground if need be. She could feel her own vital signs fluctuate from the lie that she told. Saisaki was a soft hearted woman and she would do her best to protect the man, but she was a pro at lying outwardly and everything she did from her sharp voice to the angrily furrowed brow played into the falsehood she spun to coerce information out of Soun. "You can either spill the details or spill more of your own blood. Your choice." Her heart pounded and the sound resonated in her ears while the quickened pace registered in the electrical input her body was connected to while simultaneously pulling in the information from the man as well.

 

[Mission: 4503/1800]

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Nimle darted as fast as her tiny legs could take her, trudging through the overgrown grass and dodging stones with deft guile. She was a proud hatchling, the proudest in fact, she’d one day be the clutch guardian! In truth she was terrified, she’d never been summoned like this before, she’d never been in combat. Most of her haste was spurred on by a profound fear that if she stayed in one place for too long that whoever Hitomaro was trying to hide from would get her. He’d simply left a single message with her, run to the the houses, and she was going to do that. With her legs it took a bit longer than expected, but eventually she made it to the small wooden houses. Another screaming bolt hissed through a nearby alley, she froze for a moment before scurrying towards the edge of the building. She didn’t want to die. A few moment’s later another screaming hiss from a slightly different area. Whoever was firing wasn’t firing at her, they were letting bolts fly towards the tree.

 

Had Nimle been more experienced she would have realized what the sniper was doing, realized that he was holding his targets in place behind that tree, but that wasn’t her task. She scurried into the nearest shadowed alley, then in the most abnormal looking series of events ever, she vomited the blond haired Shinobi that had been hiding somewhere inside of her stomach.

 

________________

 

"I've no intention of risking my life to protect someone that isn't going to give me what I'm after,"  

 

Soun’s wound had closed but his fear hadn’t dissipated. From either side of the tree screaming projectiles regularly flew by, letting out that high pitched screeching hiss as they passed that made him jump in fear. The first time he’d ever heard that noise it led to a metal rod flying through his neck, he never wanted to repeat that. He was ready to simply bury his head in the dirt and pray for this to end, was the Denkikage’s protection even worth this?

 

"You can either spill the details or spill more of your own blood. Your choice."

 

He’d thought the smartass was bad, this scar faced young woman was even worse. Weren’t they supposed to be protecting him? He’d remember this, but for now he needed to do what he needed to do to stay alive. “These guys in black cloaks came into town not that long ago, I think like 8 of them.” He was speaking fast, some of his words slurred out of fear as the screaming projectiles passed. “I know Togi was with us on the upcoming vote then they went into his office and he wasn’t.” There was more detail, but in his frazzled state he could barely focus on what he’d already said. “They did something with Togi, I don’t know what, just get me the hell out of here please.” He clung to the woman that had healed his wound. Somewhere in his head he thought that gripping tightly to her would keep him safe, but how could that be, she was even smaller than he was.

 

____________________

 

Hitomaro didn’t like having to crawl out of one of his summons, he liked even less having to crawl out of the smaller ones. As he dragged the rest of his body free he quietly pushed up, then once he was free and on his toes, legs in a crouch, he let his small companion run free. Hitomaro scanned the area and listened as shot after shot screamed through the air. It was suppressing fire, that’s why the strange screaming bolts. Hitomaro didn’t like what that implied. If the guy firing the shots was only really meant to keep them pinned down then there were more than one of them, if there were more than one of them then he’d just left Saisaki and the contact all alone and he had no idea how many targets there were in the area.

 

He moved quickly, lifting his body to the roof but staying on his stomach. The shots were coming from three locations, likely to keep anyone from pinning the shooter down from a distance, but Hitomaro wasn’t at a distance. He kept his body down low to the roof he was on then, as he heard the footsteps pounding against the well packed dirt, he sprung.

 

Hitomaro launched his body off the roof and onto the source of the sound, it was definitely their shooter. He was on his knee readying another shot, when he finally realized Hitomaro was springing onto him he didn’t have enough time to swing the large, heavy launcher around to fire it. Hitomaro crashed onto him, shoulders to collarbones. It wasn’t comfortable but then again not much was when there was a hole in your shoulder. A struggle ensued, Hitomaro gripped the shooter tightly around the back of the head with his right arm, not letting him pull away, at that point the blond threw left elbows into the opposite side of his targets face. The shooter lifted his own right arm to absorb the elbows, then swung hard with his left into Hitomaro’s exposed ribs. Hito released the man’s neck and used his right arm to catch the left aimed at his ribs for the second time, the blow landed but Hitomaro pinned his targets elbow behind his own, squeezing his targets arm hard into his own side. It wasn’t a comfortable position for the blond but it allowed him to swing his left shoulder over to line up with his targets left shoulder, shift his hold on the man’s captured left arm to a more controlled wrist lock, then he unleashed hard left elbow into the side of the shooters face over and over again while they continued to struggle for positioning on the ground.   

 

The blows added up quickly as his targets face bloodied and his struggling started to fade. After about eight or nine blows the dark haired shooter went limp, face bloodied and half of it sinking from having been broken. It was always hard to see a man with his face crushed, but for Hitomaro he was relieved as he pushed his target away from him and sat up. Breathing was hard, bruised ribs at least, and his elbow ached from having been used as a bashing weapon over and over again. He took another breath, there wasn’t time to recover here.

 

“How many of you!” Hitomaro dug his thumb into the already shattered left eye socket of the man. His face had already started it’s swelling, too much longer and nothing audible would come out of his mouth. He squirmed in pain as Hitomaro pressed against the broken bones, he tried to make sounds but they weren’t audible so Hitomaro pressed harder. “This only gets worse, tell me how many or I’ll pull your goddamn eye out.” the blond hissed as he moved the man’s flailing left and under his knee and then started to press his own index and thumb into the man’s loose and fractured eye socket. He completely meant to do just what he said he would, there wasn’t enough time to not get results.

 

“Way way.” the man managed through whimpers and groans of agony. Hitomaro backed his hand off anticipating the answers he needed “Fug the villages.” He didn’t say it well, but Hitomaro could make it out, then almost instantly his mouth started to foam and almost an instant later the back of his skull melted away as an acid poured out of a brand new hole. Hitomaro jumped off to avoid contact, he’d never quite seen anything like that before.

 

Hitomaro was on his feet, no time to wait. He turned from the alley and started his run back to the tree with everything he had. He needed to make sure she was ok, needed to be sure that he hadn’t abandoned her.

 

________________________

 

While the sniper continued to fire screaming shots, before Hitomaro had managed to reach him and stop him, his partner lept into action. He’d been approaching the tree they were using for cover slowly and quietly with a jutsu of his own development that caused light to bend around him. He was a large man, more burly than tall, but moved with a practiced grace as if sometime in his past he’d been a dancer.

 

They’d checked the tree when they arrived, before making their base in the small houses nearby, but thought that it was too obvious a spot to set an ambush. Didn’t matter to the big man, the leader would reward them for killing Village Shinobi.

 

He’d go around the left side of the tree and then lunge at the three hiding behind it, worst case scenario they’d try to run and get shredded by his partner, best case scenario he’d crush them with his own two hands.     

 

 

So a big bodied C-Rank is rounding the tree to kill Saisaki. This happens a little bit after I take off, so probably right after Soun tells you all the stuff.

 

You got all the info from Soun, well at least you got all the info we are going to need.

I killed the sniper, he was the only one. Once he is dead I run back to make sure you are good. Hopefully you’ve taken care of big benny by then.

 

 

Edited by Drak

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Soun's vital signs were already off the charts from fear, but his answers to Saisaki's inquiry didn't cause any fluctuation in them. He seemed to speak truly, albeit scantly. She couldn't really blame him given the dangerous situation. However, she didn't really appreciate him suddenly clinging to her and she was in the middle of gently prying him off when another electrical signature entered the realm of her haze. Once more she felt a quickening in her own heartbeat, this time from an initial panic response. She was alone with an unarmed and untrained civilian and the signature had appeared from the opposite side Hitomaro had left from, meaning it wasn't him. She heard no noises coming, which meant it wasn't someone seeing if they needed aid because they would have likely called out to see if they were okay. Given what Saisaki knew, what she understood from her own training as a shinobi, and from the frequency of shots being fired at them to keep them stuck behind the tree, it seemed like the shooter had a companion they had been covering while the latter was busy sneaking up on those cornered behind the tree.

 

She forcefully pried Soun from her now while the signature still lurked on the outskirts of her sensory tech. "Back against the tree, stay still, stay low. Don't run unless I go down." That was all she managed to say before she felt the speed of the intruder picking up as it lunged through the static field then rounding the tree and lunging at her. The electricity that innundated the air allowed Saisaki to not only know that he had been there, but the way in which he had held his body as he came for them. He was a big man, likely a physical brawler given his size and they way his arms came out her outstretched, but he was slow. Saisaki used her smaller size and quickness to her advantaged by ducking under him and extracting the breast dagger that she had kept hidden via the harness she had been wearing beneath both of her shirts each night she had been working at the tavern. There had always been a chance that someone could have gotten more out of control than the bartender could have handled or a broken nose could have solved. Saisaki thanked the heavens she still had it on her as she pivoted after dipping low and passing him. The dagger lashed out as the man bumbled forward, having missed his target. Saisaki did not though and the blade sliced through the back of both of his knees, cutting through the muscles and tendons there.

 

The attacker toppled over as blood spurted from the wounds that completely negated his ability to walk. It wasn't an immediately fatal wound, but it did put him at the mercy of Saisaki. For the most part that is. A shinobi didn't have to move to be dangerous. Saisaki knew this and she was immediately on top of him, her right foot slamming down on his right hand. There was a sickening sound of fragile bones crunching beneath her heel and and Saisaki winced herself. She could feel his vital signs going crazy, but it was his cry of pain that really hurt her heart. At least she hadn't killed him, or that's what she told herself and eventually him as she said.

 

"I don't intend to kill you, so quit crying." She was still in her rough mission persona; she still needed Soun to believe it too as well as the man that she had hamstringed. Alas, before she could put her skills to work on trussing him up and healing him enough to keep him from bleeding to death while she extracted info, there was a muffled noise that originated from his mouth that was buried in the ground since he had fallen face first before the back of his head suddenly opened up and gave Soun something far more traumatizing to experience than Saisaki being rude. The medic stared at the liquefying organic material and tried to suppress her shock. She knew it was likely a suicide pill. In fact, she had made some for Kabel before, but this one was dramatic. It took a lot of skill to make something like it and she doubted it was just for show. What was more impressive was the dedication it took to use it, especially when you had just been told you weren't going to be killed. She was shocked enough that she didn't realize the noise from the projectiles had stopped filling the air, but she wiped her blade cleaned and sheathed it before she ducked down and began examining the deceased while carefully avoiding the acid.

 

[Mission: 5296/1800]

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Hitomaro didn’t slow his pace like he probably should have, instead he rounded the corner with an ill advised haste and shouted “Sai”. If she were alive he hoped it would keep him alive, if she were in a fight hopefully the sudden shout would distract her opponent, either way it was all he could think to do before rounding the large tree. His movements came to a quick stop though as relief flooded his senses with endorphins. While he couldn’t comment to happily on the scene he’d walked up on he was glad to see Saisaki alive and well, to some extent he was happy to see Soun alive too, but for some reason it was a much lesser extent.

 

Hitomaro put his hands on his knees, let himself breathe heavily, then took a second look at the somewhat strange scene he’d run into. Sai was crouching over what looked like, in Hitomaro’s best phrasing, a pile of human goo. “You are going to have to show me how you did that at some point” the blond said through deep breaths. The exhaustion of the sudden struggle was finally getting to him and his body felt heavy for a moment before he pushed back to his full height. He waited for a moment so Saisaki could fill him in on what exactly happened, if she stayed tight lipped he quickly move them along.

 

After the exchange he’d walk over to the clearly terrified Soun, get close to him, then grip him by his blood stained collar. It was to serve two purposes, the first was to intimidate the lanky man. He’d called them into this mess without sending proper warning, had the village been told that there were hostile Shinobi in the area they’d have sent more than a few people to deal with it. But the second reason was a bit more humane, he wanted to make sure that Saisaki had dealt with the wound before the blond had to kick him loose.

 

“Next time, be sure to warn us that we’re walking into a goddamn war zone.” Hitomaro turned his head to look at Saisaki, then the other way just to be sure there wasn’t another projectile flying at them, there wasn’t.

 

“I’ve told her everything I know.” Soun stammered while saying it. Hitomaro was impressed with the dark haired young woman, she was able to get the info, heal the injured contact, and she fended off an attacker. No wonder the Kage held her in such high regard. Hitomaro finally released the collar of the lanky man and waved him off.

 

“Get out of here, you’d be in more danger if you stayed with us than if you head home right now. We’ll deal with the others.” Soun wasted little time in scurrying away. Once Hitomaro was sure the man was safely on his way back into the main town, back to safety, he turned to Saisaki. “So fill me in, what did he tell you?”

 

Not a whole lot here, but that’s ok we are entering the home stretch.

  

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Intrigue more than disgust filled Saisaki as she watched the rest of the fresh corpse's fleshy bits lose their collective shape and turn into nothing more than a viscous sludge on the ground. It was a pity that she didn't have any of her equipment on her besides the hidden dagger and the concealed explosive tags in locations that no one but herself would be getting to any time soon. She wanted to collect a sample of the acid aided decomposed material for research, but she would have to settle for taking mental notes on how the body responded from each second after the pill had been taken. Perhaps she would try to reproduce the effects deep in the lab of the Reizan Byouin.

 

She was musing over this when she felt another entity appear on the fringe of her sensory abilities. It was quickly followed by an increasingly familiar voice calling her name out before a shaggy headed blond burst out from behind the tree that had saved their lives more than any of their own actions had. Saisaki cocked her head to the left slightly as she stared at Hitomaro from her kneeling position. There had been a jump in the vital signs of everyone present before they began to slow. Saisaki attributed hers to relief, which was strange. She hadn't realized she had still been so tense and was even more surprised by the fact that seeing Hitomaro caused some of that tension to dissipate. She didn't give voice to any of these feelings, but gave a quick answer to Hitomaro's question.

 

"It wasn't me. It looks like the work of a suicide pill."

 

That seemed to be enough of an answer for Hitomaro, for the time being at least, and he turned his attention to Soun. Saisaki rose back to her full height and watched their exchange as her jutsu lingered. It gave her interesting insight into how both Hitomaro and Soun responded in high stress situations and to confrontation. Soun was far less stable than Hitomaro on a physiological level, which directly corresponded to their psychological states. A comparison like this would make an interesting study for Saisaki, but much like her desire to research the chemicals used in their attacker's poisons, she would been denied the privilege due to time constraints; at least when it came to Soun, she still had access to Hitomaro. The medic added it to the ever growing list of things to do in her head while her companion chided their informant then booted him from the area before turning his focus back to her with another question.

 

"It appears that these guys," Saisaki started to say then gestured to the pile of melting flesh before continuing, "Are relatively new in town; came in a group of eight, apparently. They seem to have swayed the politician, Togi, away from his original stance of standing with Soun and the others, who claims he doesn't know more than that. I believe him." She took in their surroundings as she spoke, clearly on the lookout for anyone else that might have been looking to attack them. Nothing came across as unsettling to her so her gaze shifted back to focus on Hitomaro. She noticed the tear in his shirt and the dampness of the fabric surrounding the tear; the whole thing hinted at the wound beneath the garment and Saisaki took a step to close the gap between them so that she could examine him.

 

"You're hurt," she said simply in a soft voice, her sapphire eyes locking onto the puncture wound in his shoulder caused by the strange projectiles. "Don't move." It came out as a command rather than a request. Saisaki was used to being in charge of patients and that was what Hitomaro had temporarily become. Again, Saisaki performed a specific set of seals that preempted the healing energy which spring to live in her hands which she gingerly placed on either side of the man's injury. Like Soun's wound before, Hitomaro would find his skill whole once more. "Did you get hurt anywhere else that I should check?" Her jutsu were typically all encompassing, but external wounds utilized a different method than that of internal ones and therefore required different treatment. It was all good and well to fix a tiny gash with one, but any bruising, bleeding, or broken bits inside wouldn't be targeted. Saisaki wanted to make sure he was one hundred percent before moving on.

 

[Mission: 6040/1800]

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Saisaki ran through the information she got from the informant, it wasn’t anything Hitomaro hadn’t expected. It was a bit strange that anyone would send in eight people at once. They didn’t even try to keep their actions a secret. It worried the blond Shinobi a bit, after what the sniper had said before he died and now the information that a small host had been moving within town. He was trying to piece it together in his mind, it was possible that they were a bandit group trying to seize power in the Voltage Lands, but simply occupying the town would have accomplished that. It didn’t feel right.

 

"You're hurt,"

 

Her soft tone broke him out of his thoughts, it was probably for the best. She then proceeded to issue an order, it wasn’t really his style to take orders from young women in his care, but given he had a hole in his shoulder he decided to let her take control. She moved to towards him, performing hand seals as she moved. She’d already proven herself a competent medic, but now he began to worry a bit about her stamina. She’d single handedly healed him, Soun, fought off an attacker, and she was now healing him again. Hitomaro had never had the control to take up medical practice but he imagined it was draining. She placed her hands on his shoulder around the open wound, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling, and then it was. A warm feeling flooded his shoulder as her chakra entered his system and forced the wound to mend. Once Hitomaro was whole once again he noticed an itch where the wound had been, but she’d managed to save him from an inevitable scar. He assumed that probably earned her dinner on him at some point after all this.

 

"Did you get hurt anywhere else that I should check?"

 

She was thorough, then again Hitomaro was choosing to believe that she was asking at least a little out of interest in seeing him from head to toe. He smiled a bit at that thought, “A little rib bruising, probably nothing serious.” He passed on the opportunity to say something a bit forward, she’d done really well, no reason to have her pull away now that they were finally getting along. “We don’t have much time, whoever sent those guys is going to be looking for them soon if not already, we need to get to Togi as soon as possible.” Hitomaro said while he rotated his now healed shoulder, a bit of soreness to go with the itch.

 

Assuming Saisaki didn’t insist on dealing with his other injury the blond would take the lead, Togi Hashirama wasn’t an unknown entity, in fact he was someone Lightning had been forced to make contact with once before. Getting to him now that they knew there was a hostile element in the town though was going to take a bit of care.

 

Togi lived in a pretty large house near the center of town, granted in a town like this pointing out the center was a bit of a trick. Most of the buildings had gone up sporadically and haphazardly as the mines became a main resource in the region, that made it hard to predict where the roads began and ended, that in turn made plotting a break in a bit on the difficult side. “We need to get out of here. We’ve got a safehouse set up near the bar.” With that he deferred deciding the next course of action for a while. It was probably the best decision, whatever they planned would be best done in the dead of night and with clothes that weren’t stained with blood, his or Soun’s came to mind after taking a look at the blood on Saisaki’s arms from treating the both of them.

 

Hitomaro would lead the way through the back alleys and shadows, staying off the main roads given their current appearance. He thought about using a transformation technique to get through the town but worried that the strain would push Saisaki over the limit after everything she’d already done. So they took to the shadows, it was slower moving but eventually they made it to a small house.

 

The house was relatively unremarkable and was owned by an old woman whose son had once been a Shinobi in the Lightning Country. For a few years she’d been letting other Shinobi pass through, Hitomaro in particular. He’d once fought alongside her son, during the rebellions, and stopped by on a regular basis to make sure she had everything she needed. He didn’t like using her as a safehouse, or anyone else for that matter given everything she’d already been through, but he couldn’t argue with the convenience of having a built in alibi.

 

He knocked on the side door three times in a staggered pattern, she may have been old but she didn’t have any issue hearing. Moments later an old woman, tanned and wrinkled by the sun and time, swung the side door open with a concerned look on her face. He’d sent word that he might be in town for work, undoubtedly she wasn’t super happy to see that he had a need to call on her after the sun started to go down.

 

“Well,” She said, her voice cracking and raspy with age, “get inside.”

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"Wait," Saisaki interjected before Hitomaro could lead them away from their impromptu battlefield. "Let me dispose of the bodies and clean the scene first. It'll only take a few minutes and the less signs that we were here, the better. Just stay here and let your ribs rest." She flitted away before he could properly protest and left him to his thoughts while she collected the projectiles and tossed them into a pile with the body of the man that had attacked her. She was near half of her chakra reserves now and she could feel it, but she still formed a series of seals that caused the ground beneath the man turned mush to churn and pull the evidence beneath the surface of the earth. Then she made her way to the roof where Hitomaro had his fight. She toppled the body over the side using her foot; the acid didn't seem to eat through anything but organic human materials. It splattered to the ground below with a sickening squelch. She jumped down to join it and repeated the process of sinking the corpse underground before returning to Hitomaro and letting him lead them to the safehouse.

 

The sun had finished setting during the course of their fight and the cleanup afterward, so there were plenty of shadows for the pair to slink back town through. Not having to follow and protect Soun this time also made it easier and soon enough they arrived in front of a small house. The sound of knocking was jarring to Saisaki after spending their trip back in silence. She tensed and looked around to make sure that no one was watching them, at least that she could see. It seemed the coast was clear and the door was opened only seconds later by an old woman. She didn't seem surprised to see the blond and his raven haired companion, but she did seem worried as she urged them to come inside.

 

Saisaki dipped her head in greeting and acknowledgment of the offer then slipped past the woman and into the abode. "We're sorry for the intrusion," she said, her voice soft and laced with signs of an impending exhaustion. "Thank you for welcoming us into your home, ma'am." She took a look around her. The house somehow managed to seem smaller on the inside than it did on the outside and she moved so that she would be out of the way of Hitomaro and the home owner. Since this was his contact, Saisaki would gladly let him handle the setup.

 

[Mission: 6467/1800]

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Saisaki was, without a doubt, a fish out of water at times. Hitomaro almost laughed when they entered and the brunette slipped into a reserved politeness. It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to her doing it, after all her whole demeanor was reserved politeness, it was that he knew the old woman too well to see it as anything other than comical. She had grown up around miners, learned to talk with miners, married a miner and then, out of some god forsaken miracle, her son became a shinobi. She simply didn’t much care for politeness.

 

“I didn’t welcome you, I just opened the door.” the old woman hissed at the young brunette. She was an old bitter woman at this point and it would be clear as day. Hitomaro didn’t wait to hear Saisaki’s response, not that he’d actually expected her to have one.

 

“We need a place to lay low for the night, I’d like that bag I sent with my letter-” He stopped as the old woman held up a manilla folder. It was identical to the ones that he found next to his bunk on a regular basis. For a moment the blond haired Shinobi was in disbelief, how had the Kage known they’d show up at the safehouse, how had he even known this was a safehouse Hitomaro might use? He shook that off, strolled over to the old woman and then snatched the folder away. He gave Saisaki a nervous glance before lifting the seal and opening it, inside was a single piece of white paper with a typed message on it. Abort Mission, lay low for the night return early.
 

It may have well been the clearest message he’d ever gotten while on a mission and it felt a bit unlike the Kage or anyone in the Kage’s office to send something so clear. Either way it all fit, even the code word at the bottom of the letter. “Looks like we’ll be staying the night.” Hitomaro said as he looked from the old woman to Saisaki. “We’ll be leaving in the morning. The room ok?” Hitomaro asked this question directly of the old woman. She flung her head back in indignation before waving an arm out almost to shoo him away. Hitomaro took it as a yes.

 

He nodded to Sai for her to follow to the only door, to say she had to follow was probably incorrect, in reality she only needed to take about five or six steps. Once she was with him he flung the door open to reveal what looked to be a long closet with a bedroll lain out across the floor. “It was her son’s old room, we’ll be sleeping here tonight.” Hitomaro could almost hear the young woman’s protests before she had them, or at least he imagined he could. The room wasn’t even large enough for the two of them to stand shoulder to shoulder without rubbing against the walls and they were going to share it? Hitomaro was almost giddy. “Before you say anything understand this, she sleeps in the main room, which has windows. There are none in the small room.” Calling it a room was generous, “It’s safer if we use this room.”

 

He’d listen to the young brunettes protests if she had any, then he’d retrieve the pack he’d sent to the old woman’s house. Upon retrieving it he groaned, there were weapons, explosive tags, hell even sealing scrolls. The one thing he needed that wasn’t in there, a change of clothes. He looked to the old woman.

 

“I’m wearing everything I own, and I got rid of all his old stuff.” She smiled and said. “I’ll clean the blood off your clothes, but you’re going to have to give them to me.”

 

If he and Saisaki weren’t going to have to walk out of town in the morning he would have just dealt with it, then again sleeping in blood stained clothes was never very high on his list. He sighed, then nodded to Saisaki and started stripping himself. If she was upset about him grabbing her before she was really going to be upset about this.

 

In a moment he was stripped down to his latex, thigh length underwear. His ribs were discolored, his shoulder red from the healing, but otherwise completely comfortable in his near nudity. “Don’t stand in the middle of my house nearly naked, you’ve got blankets use them.” the old woman hissed once more before collecting their clothes and shuffling off to a water bucket to clean the blood out of them and then hang them to dry.

 

Hitomaro moved to the bed roll that had been lain out in the small closet, leaving what he hoped was enough room for Saisaki to comfortably slide in next to him. It would be a very close night for the two of them, then in the morning they’d grab their things and walk right out of town.

 

It wasn’t how either of them wanted to leave the mission, in fact it made Hitomaro sick to his stomach, but when things started to fall apart sometimes you had to cut weight and move on. Still, the whole thing tasted sour and leaving as the loser was a blow to his ego.     

 

[The End for Hitomaro]

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