(A week later)
Once again everyone is gathered at the fountain for the morning mission briefing. Kam has taken to wearing mirrorshades over his metal faceplate. Sensei walks up, takes her headphones off, and announces that a squad of Mist ninja has been detected traveling through the Briar Country, and her team has been chosen to keep an eye on them and “make sure they don’t get into any trouble”.
The foreign nin seem to be traveling through the Briar on their way to the Wind Country, so Mina tells everyone to get enough gear for a couple day’s travel and to regroup at the city gate. Once everyone meets up there, Sensei asks Mizuki and Kam to transform into forms more suitable for travel. Mizuki turns into a panther and Kam turns into a kunai, which Mina grabs, and then starts running off to the north, in the direction of their targets.
About four hours later, Sensei says they’ve reached the last place the Mist were known to be, and asks Mizuki to start tracking their targets. It takes her a couple tries, but Mizuki finds the trail and they begin trying to catch up. This area of the Briar country is grasslands on rolling hills, and after an hour of tracking, Mizuki notices some unusual chakra activity up ahead. She turns human and tells the group that she’s seeing some sort of dark chakra in the next valley over. Once they get near the ridgeline, Mina tosses kunai-Kam into the air and tells him to wake up; he turns human again and lands nicely. The group then tries to sneak over the ridge, but Kam seems to have forgotten how high the grass really is and doesn’t keep low enough to reduce his profile. Fortunately the ninja below are in the middle of combat and don’t seem to notice!
From the top of the ridge, about one hundred fifty to two hundred meters from the Mist ninja, it is obvious that there are four ninja involved in combat. There are small areas of burnt grass scattered around the hillside; a ninja in blue with a sword fighting a large, black-skinned man; and another ninja kneeling over someone a short distance away. The distance and waving grass hides most of the detail, however. Sensei pulls out a scroll from a pocket, unrolls it and slams it on the ground—and an Akakaze poofs into existence. She tells him that she may have found the person who murdered [Fu’s dead sensei, fill in the name later] and that she wants backup. The Akakaze nods, and sprints off towards the south at Ludicrous Speed: he is out of sight in just ten seconds or so.
Sensei tells her teammates to stay back, because these guys are dangerous, and then rushes into the fight herself, making several clones as she approaches. Kam gets his weapons ready, while Tajomaru gets out a notepad and starts taking notes. Mizuki takes a good look at the various combatants, especially the black-skinned one who seems to be the source of the dark chakra she’s been seeing. Tajomaru, Kam, and Li all try to sneak up closer. Tajo keeps taking notes, Kam gets close enough to the black-skinned guy to try to try to compare his chakra to the patterns he remembers from the “demon deer” incident, and Li just gets an exploding kunai ready. Kam quickly determines that this person’s dark chakra pattern is similar to the demon deer and fox, but it is more complex, and he utters a mild curse.
Sensei herself runs up to the Mist swordsman and gives him some quick first aid, while her clones swarm the dark fighter. Two clones are destroyed easily in hand-to-hand-combat, but instead of just poofing, they turn into ink-scratches that attach themselves to the enemy, seemingly to no effect. Seeing the skill of the combatants, Tajo sends Tanuki and Youshun back over the ridge so that they won’t get hurt, and then takes up a defensive posture.
Sensei, the swordsman, and Sensei’s remaining clones spar with their black opponent for a few more rounds. He seems to be focusing on Mina, and most of her clones get poofed while she and the Mist nin don’t seem able to cause much damage. Sensei does bring up a few other Briar ninja, which are either ignored or seem to poof after only a single hit. Li finally sees his chance though, when he gets a open shot at the enemy’s back, and manages to hit with an exploding kunai!
Sensei pales a bit, jumps to a position a little to the side of the nin she’s fighting with, and throws a kunai in front of Li. A Kyoudo clan member poofs out of the grass where it hits, and Minaka shouts to him, “Intercept!” The black ninja glares at Li and throws a black dart of energy at him, but the Kyoudo jumps directly in front of it and is enveloped in a soundless dark explosion. Only a thin sheet of briars falls gently to the ground when the explosion recedes. Mizuki, still in panther form, runs up to Li’s position. Tajomaru runs off towards the side, avoiding combat. Kam throws a bola, using a new puppeteering technique, that somehow goes through the black ninja instead of hitting him. Li throws a kunai but misses entirely.
Mizuki, still in panther form, tries to pounce on their enemy, but gets swatted out of the air. Sensei jumps in front of her, and drops two more seals that poof into Nekodama Kenta and… a ninja wearing all black, with purple hair and and a sword. Kam pulls his bola back around to try to tangle him up again, but his attack is dodged! Li throws another kunai, but this also goes through its target… and hits a Kyoudo on the far side, who poofs into a large pile of briars, enclosing the dark chakra user and Kam’s bola! Tajo just keeps running, arcing a little closer to the main combat.
Mina warns everyone to back off and regroup at the top of the hill, and Mizuki starts backing up the hill. Kam tries (and fails) to extract his bola from the mess of briars with puppetry. Li decides to press the attack, and throws another exploding kunai into the briar pile… and there’s a huge explosion. Once the smoke clears, there’s a thin shell of briars remaining where the rear of the pile was, and a crater in the ground, but no sign of the enemy.
Tajo finally reaches his target… and attacks the Mist medic with his staff, knocking him over in a bright flash of light!
Once everyone gets over this turn of events…
The medical nin slumps over, out of the fight. The swordsman, who was being healed, makes some handseals but nothing obvious happens—although a kunai flies out of nowhere and hits Tajo in the back! Tajo turns around and bull rushes in the general direction the kunai came from, but even with his staff out sideways, he doesn’t hit anything.
Meanwhile, back near the rest of the group, the ninja in black makes some handseals of his own, then hides in the grass. Kenta takes a look at Tajo, then shifts to tiger form and rushes over to get him out of the fight. Minaka stands still for a second and just looks around for her vanished opponent. Mizuki turns human and tells Sensei that there’s a trail of dark chakra heading from near the center of the explosion down the valley. Li throws a kunai at the freshly healed Mist swordsman, but misses. Kam puts his hand on the ground, but doesn’t notice anything that he can’t also see, and so he runs towards Tajo as well.
The Mist swordsman rubs his eyes and looks around, trying to get a read on the new situation. Kenta reaches Tajo and tries to grab him by the backpack, but Tajo slips free. Mizuki, still in human form, starts running toward the Mist medic to see if he’s okay. Kam runs up to about where Tajo is and touches the ground again; this time he notices someone moving around but can’t see them at all. Li throws another kunai at the Mist swordsnin and connects, but his target poofs into a log instead. Tajo whistles for Youshun and Tanuki to return, and takes up a defensive stance.
Kenta tries to knock Tajo down, but Tajo was prepared and manages to stumble back a few feet instead. Something flies through the air near Kenta, but misses. Tajo tells Kenta to back off, and Mina walks up to Li and tells him to quit messing with the Mist ninja, since they’re not enemies. Kenta and Tajo face each other down for a little while, and Kam calls out to the invisible Mist nin to see if they’re okay. A female voice, sounding upset, replies that she’s fine. Fortunately no one makes any further attacks.
Mizuki finally reaches fallen Mist medic, but when she asks if he’s okay, he rolls face up, sits up, and says he’ll be all right. She tries to make small talk, but doesn’t get much response. Mina tries to get everyone to head back up the hill the way they came, but her kids don’t understand why and start questioning her. As the Mist group starts walking further down the hill the way they were going, Kam follows them from just a few feet away. When Mina asks him what he’s doing, he says, “I thought we were supposed to escort them.”
She finally drags everyone back up the hill to regroup and wait for the backup she sent for. She then sends Kage and Kenta to follow the Mist nin and make sure the black-skinned ninja doesn’t try attacking them again. Mizuki keeps an eye out for any further signs of dark chakra, or anyone else showing up here, but they don’t see anything until an Akakaze ANBU shows up after 20 minutes or so. He has a pouch slung around under his jacket, with a kitty poking its head out in front. Minaka explains what happened and that she thinks the dark chakra guy is a genjutsu user. The cat jumps out of the pouch and turns into a mountain lion. They head off tracking the dark chakra trail, and Mina tells her group that they can resume trailing the Mist nin, but since Kam blew their cover, they’ll have to keep their distance now.
They keep about the same distance from the Mist nin that they’re at currently; Mizuki tracks them and Kam keeps an eye out for any traces of unusual chakra use. They don’t see anything of note, and confirm that the Mist ninja’s trail leads out of the Briar Country into the Wind Country. Mina takes her team back to the Briar Village for debriefing, and chews them out for letting the Mist know what their mission was, and for picking an unnecessary fight. Her team is dissatisfied with the mission briefing, and argue with her regarding what they “should have” done.
Homework assignments from this mission: Li has to write on how to start a war without getting caught (he does an excellent job, albeit horribly obscured in legalese); Kam has to write on why/when it is a good idea to blow one’s own cover (he does a horrible job of composing his ideas); Tajo gets to write on what circumstances are acceptable for letting one’s victims escape (he says “so they can recount one’s glory”, but only does a passable job of writing); and Mizuki is given a short essay on how she could have backed up her teammates (she doesn’t do very well on her composition).
[ +2 CP to all! ]