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Escape Velocity [Haruichi, Katsuko] [Mar. 30th, 2010|05:40 pm]
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[Current Mood | crappy]

[Backdated!! Takes place directy after Reconaissance and Recovery].

Everything hurt.

The desert laboratory and the flaming wreck they'd made of it seemed lifetimes ago. Katsuko heaved in a gasp of dry desert air and tasted blood. Each step jarred her wounds; her checks on the steady feel of Haruichi's chakra grew more frequent.

They ran with the night. No one from the labs came after them, but why should they when sustained wounds and harsh desert winds would do the job? Katsuko and Haruichi needed to find shelter before daybreak, and fast.

Haruichi signaled and veered abruptly left just as dawn broke over the horizon. She blinked and followed. Too tired to be puzzled, she fixed her gaze on Haruichi's back as he rounded a large rock outcropping. He stopped abruptly, and she stumbled and nearly slammed into him.

She blinked again, ignoring Haruhime's squawk of outrage, and looked up.

Oh, thank the gods. A cave. A nice, cool, hidden desert cave. Katsuko sighed in relief and followed her partner inside.
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Let's Not Speak of It Again [Ryouma, Katsuko] [Dec. 26th, 2009|11:39 am]

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[[Takes place early in the morning of April 8, the day after Something That the Knife Took and two days after Lay Your Armor Down. Titles inspired by Dashboard Confessional's song Don't Wait.]]

By the fifth mile, the shallow cut on Ryouma's hip had clotted and he was beginning to find his stride. At the fifteenth, when they paused for a breather and for Ryouma to burn his reeking gloves and scrub his crusted hands, two of Katsuko's clones peeled off to backtrack. They caught up again half an hour later, running with easy satisfaction. One of the sharp-faced masks was sprinkled with blood. Ryouma thought about asking, and decided to focus on running instead.

At least they knew the territory. When Katsuko swung in a wide west-ward circle to avoid Ashirogi Swamp, Ryouma followed her without question. When her next clone peeled off, it returned quickly with a canteen refilled from a stream running cold with snow-melt. And when, near midnight, Ryouma veered south-east again into the low forested foothills near the border of Plains and Fire Country, he found the ancient ryokan still standing among its sheltering pine-trees.

The frail, white-haired old landlady was still there, too--a little deafer, and more than a little rumpled from the bed they'd rousted her out of, but still as bright-eyed and energetic as she'd been when Ryouma had first stayed here on his way to the border five years ago. She was also obviously dying of curiosity, but any innkeeper who made half her living from ninja clientele was a past master at the art of discretion. There were no other guests at the moment, she informed them as she entered a neat spiral-leaf sigil in the register. The baths were open-air, but heated by hot-springs; they would be quite safe, too, because years of ninja guests had left the perimeter so heavily trapped that not even squirrels could cross from the forest into the ryokan grounds. (The landlady's kitchen garden fared quite well in the absence of four-legged brigands.) She would stir up the maids and have supper waiting when they finished in the baths. "And a medical kit," she added, with an unsuccessful attempt not to stare at Ryouma's shoulder and Katsuko's broken armor. "Is there anything else you require, shinobi-san?"

'Privacy,' Ryouma said, slinging his good arm over Katsuko's shoulders. )
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Something That The Knife Took [Ryouma, Katsuko] [Dec. 15th, 2009|09:59 pm]
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[Current Mood | awake]

[[Takes place April 7, the day after Lay Your Armor Down.]]

Dawn came, bright and cold.

Katsuko rolled out of her blankets and looked at Ryouma's sleeping form for a moment, then slipped outside. She flinched at the sharp morning air, coughed as it raked a freezing trail down her sinuses. The sky was stained red and gold, the rising sun hidden by a veil of wispy clouds.

Last night's conversation--the soul-baring honesty of it--scared her more than even the nightmares that followed. At least the horror of her subconscious memories was familiar. It was an old terror that she'd grown used to, if not comfortable with. Ryouma's embrace, his openness in displaying his scars, her reaction--it was all new. It was all frightening. He hadn't flinched away, hadn't changed the subject as her family did. There'd just been the silent listening, understanding, sympathy.

Confusing, how a near-stranger could offer her the comfort that her own blood relations couldn't.

The sleepy curl of chakra and a slight rustle in the tent told her Ryouma was up. Katsuko stood by the dead campfire and didn't turn around as the tent flap unzipped a minute later. The weight of his dark-eyed gaze settled on her back.

"I'm going to wash up." Her tone was matter-of-fact, brusque. She refused to glance behind her. "I'll be ready to go in ten."

She strode off toward the stream. Behind her, Ryouma lifted a hand, then dropped it. He watched her for a moment more, but said nothing. At last, he turned and went to get changed.

A few hours later, Katsuko and Ryouma were well on their way to setting the record for "Most Voluntarily Silent Mission, Ever." Masahiko's fortress was easy enough to locate, garish perversion of military architecture on the landscape as it was, and the former cloud-nin had even been considerate enough to forbid any sort of town or civilization to spring up around his walls. The number of civilian casualties would be drastically reduced, a fact that cheered Katsuko to no end. She could kill and burn to her heart's content.

They stood amidst a grove of trees on a hill directly overlooking Masahiko's fortress. The faint sound of weapons drills drifted up to them from the compound's courtyards. Miniature black dots moved with mindless (mindless-looking, down there it probably made more sense what they were doing than it looked from up here) efficiency on the fort's walls and ramps.

Katsuko stirred restlessly, turning to Ryouma. "We got a plan? Or we just going to go in there and start killing? I'm good, either way."
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Lay Your Armor Down [Ryouma, Katsuko] [Nov. 21st, 2009|10:53 am]

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Takes place April 6, the morning after All My Regrets Are Nothing New, a week after Katsuko and Ryuichi's mission in Knife's Edge and No Rest for the Wicked.

Ryouma stopped by the mission office just before breakfast, right after his morning workout and the mission desk shift change. The gangly young chuunin who manned the desk for the morning shift was new--he'd just come in a few weeks ago, after an injured knee took him off active duty for the next month or two--and unlikely to ask questions. In fact he seemed much more interested in the sudoku puzzle in his newspaper than in the reasons Ryouma had spent a week on Personal Leave and now wanted the first mission that would take him out of Konoha. "Things're always slow at the beginning of the week," he said, poking through the open-assignment missions stacked on his desk. "There's a B-rank surveillance out in Mangrove Country, but--"

"I need somethin' with less time to think," Ryouma said. "Team'd be good." Dammit, where were Arata and Hiroyuki when he needed them? "There's not anything up by the Lightning Country border, is there? Near the post that replaced the Dainichi Nyorai Temple Base?"

"Operations there are extremely limited right now," the chuunin said firmly. "But... Hold on a sec." He swiveled his chair around to paw through another basket of sealed scrolls. "You said your name was Tousaki, right? Then you're just in time. Another two days and they'd probably have pulled you off Personal Leave for this one, or assigned someone else. Reiko-san must've been keeping this one back for you. You're good with straightforward assassinations, aren't you?"

'My specialty,' Ryouma said. 'Who's coming along for the ride?' )
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FUBAR (Genma, Yanagi) [Jun. 27th, 2009|04:00 pm]

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[Backdated: Takes place in August, three months before the Fox attack]

"Hey. Kid. You keeping a look out?"

Nori flashed an irritated glance over his shoulder, but then turned his sharp eyes back to the forest that surrounded them. "Of course I'm keeping a look out. And I'm not a kid." His teeth ground together, already expecting the taunt.

"Right. Rookie."

"I still outrank you."

That got Akira's goat. The special jounin glared at him, and Nori smirked. If looks could kill... this whole group would be dead. Rain ninja weren't exactly known for getting along -- at least, not these days. These days, they were more known for tearing into each other, everyone grappling for a piece of the country. This group was no different, though Yanagi hadn't yet figured out all of the political machinations. He didn't really need to; he just needed to get enough information back to Konoha to make sure this faction didn't win.

And stay alive long enough to get the information back to Konoha. There was a reason they sent ANBU in, rather than the normal intel jounin. Rain weren't kind to traitors. )
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Fire and Water [Tsume and Asuma] [Jun. 11th, 2009|08:35 pm]

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[Takes place seven days after Words Without Meaning, six days after Fall From Grace, and four days after Kakashi returned to Konoha.]


Tsume cringed, halting finally on the dirt path. The agent had been following her for some time, but she'd been able to ignore him. Hard to ignore the fact that she was the only Inuzuka out here, though.

With a last longing glance toward the hospital--where Kuromaru was undergoing the last few days of chakra-cleansing after his close call training with Katsuko--she stopped and waited. "Help you?" she asked without looking back.

He wheezed to a halt, flailing a scroll around. "Orders," he managed to gasp.

She snatched it. It had to be a mistake. Or an order for something she could put off, at least--it wasn't like she could do missions yet.

Then her brows pulled down and in. )
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Fall From Grace. [Asuma & Natsumi] [Jun. 3rd, 2009|04:23 am]

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[[Immediately follows Shield of Faith.]]

Natsumi's laughter lasted for the first few miles, sparking back up when Asuma managed to hit on the right combination of flirting and teasing and good old dirty jokes. It was a good sound, musical and clear--a decent, distracting thing to focus on every time he had to lean over to pick a scroll up, and his side burned.

He tried to ignore that.

At the final count, they'd found five of his scrolls--all weapons, jutsu, or sealed bits of precious he didn't want to lose--and his very battered but still intact map. He folded the map into a spare pocket, stowed the scrolls into his waistband (which was not comfortable, but at least left his hands free), and called himself satisfied. He'd lost his armour, his med-kit, his cigarettes, and his pack, but he had most of the things that mattered.

And a still-breathing teammate that topped everything. )
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Shield of Faith [Asuma and Natsumi] [May. 31st, 2009|07:45 pm]
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[[Immediately follows Leap of Faith.]]

Air became water with punishing force. Asuma's grip tightened, crushing Natsumi to his chest; she choked off her involuntary cry just in time not to choke on the river.

Asuma didn't. Thrashing legs kicking for the surface slowed; the painful band of muscle around her ribcage loosened. Natsumi broke her hand-seal, grabbed the back of his neck in one hand, and pulled his head down to hers. He didn't resist. In the dark water, his face was deathly pale, and his open eyes stared down at her, terrifying sightless.

She didn't know any words bad enough, and couldn't use them anyway. Her chest was beginning to burn; the single breath she'd caught as her jutsu had flung them free of the waterfall wouldn't be enough for long. He was an impossible weight, limp and boneless, dragging them both down... )
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Leap of Faith. [Asuma & Natsumi] [May. 29th, 2009|12:53 am]

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[Set March 22nd, a week after One Step/Two Step, and five days after Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.]

Getting missions in ANBU turned out to be a lot more work than advertised. The pros got everything juicy--hunts, assassinations, pretty girls to rescue and escort--but rookies got the scutt work, like it or lump it.

Fresh back from two days spent in a nowhere town on the western border, mediating a disagreement between two minor fief lords that might have gotten ugly (but had mostly been boring as hell), Asuma was ready for something better. Anything better.

Which was why Saturday's dawn found him up almost-bright and far too early, wandering freshly showered into ANBU's mission room, ready to beg, bribe, or bargain his way into something with a little fire. The young chuunin behind the desk was pretty, brunette, and exhausted-looking, but brightened up a spark at his ready smile.

"Morning, sweetheart," he said, ignoring the empty chair in favour of leaning against the edge of her desk. "I'm wondering if you can help me..."

A little back and forth later... )
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Knife's Edge [Closed to Katsuko and Ryuichi] [May. 24th, 2009|08:26 pm]
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It was Ryuichi’s opinion that Intel was screwed up and filled with sadists. It was also his opinion that his current mission partners were doing their very best to make him miserable. Despite flatly ignoring them for three hours straight and then pretending he was deaf for what felt like another two, they were succeeding.

Thick grass stretched out from them in all directions, broken only occasionally by dark boulders. A chill wind hissed through the grass, and it would have been worse if it weren’t so dry. When the sun went down, Ryuichi knew it was going to be very cold. Winter was mostly over, just a few more days of cold intentions to break it up before the heat came, but this was one of the few and letting everyone know it.

Eventually they would reach the forest and the rendezvous point. Katsuko would be there.

When it all came down, she was little more than a stranger, but Ryuichi respected her fighting ability. That mattered in a Hunter, and what mattered more was that she seemed level-headed.

Well. For a jounin. )
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Doubt in Your Faith [closed to Raidou and Genma] [May. 5th, 2009|02:18 pm]

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Directly follows All the Way Through

Hearing was the first sensation to come back this time. Hearing and pain. Feet pounding, harshly-drawn breaths, and the gentle clank of weapons. Shudders jolted through Genma, striking reverberations like a temple gong from his right side with every breath. It boiled into something else in the pit of his belly; oozed coldly from his hip down through his left leg to his dangling ankle; strangled like a serpent coiled tight around his neck...

And his hand.

Merciful Kanon, his left hand. )
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The Storm Before the Calm. [Closed to Kakashi and Ryouma] [Apr. 20th, 2009|07:19 pm]

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[Takes place the afternoon following Watch Me Burn]

When Kakashi woke up, it was to the dull soundtrack of agonized blood beating in his ears. He groaned very, very quietly, and curled up, pressing the heels of his hands to his overheated forehead. That prompted another deep-in-the-throat noise when he touched what felt like the morning after-impression of someone's fist, and ratcheted his headache up from bloody awful to apocalyptic.

Most ninja were relatively good at waking up, putting the pain aside, and working out why they didn't know where the hell they were. But Kakashi was fairly certain most ninja hadn't had their skulls recently unscrewed and filled with hot tar. He bit down a third unhappy sound and focused on breathing for a while.

When it felt like he could move without his head spontaneously exploding... )
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Watch Me Burn [closed to Kakashi and Ryouma] [Apr. 19th, 2009|05:10 pm]

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[[Takes place immediately following Stand Your Ground.]]

Thirty-six hours later, Kakashi was still the pretty one. Chestnut-haired and chocolate-eyed, lean in leather so tight it might have been painted on, he was drawing admiring gazes even before he paid the bouncer at the door of Club 69 and gave up his jacket at the coat check. The mesh shirt glided over pale muscles masked by the liquid curves of a tribal tattoo that covered his entire left shoulder blade and half his upper arm.

He still looked dangerous, but it was the kind of danger that drew men hungry for a thrill.

Ryouma gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the hungry gazes, the naked lust. The naked people were harder to ignore--some guy was dancing on a stage on the lower level in little more than a feathered G-string, and a few of the dancers on the floor around him seemed to be following his example. Most of them really didn't have the physique to pull it off. Perceptions got skewed in Konoha, Ryouma was beginning to realize. Sure, you saw other civilians on missions and in the streets, but for the most part the people you interacted with--the only ones you got close to--were young and lithe and supremely fit. There were a few of that type here, but for the most part...

His gaze was caught, in a sort of fascinated horror, by a man dancing on the fringes of the crowd, near the bar. Surely no one was actually that fat and still mobile? And--oh, no--he was pulling off his shirt--

"Kakashi," Ryouma murmured. "Lend me a kunai. I need to gouge my eyes out."
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Stand Your Ground [closed to Kakashi and Ryouma] [Apr. 19th, 2009|04:29 pm]

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[[Set on March 22nd, around two weeks after The Safest Place You've Found and Straighten Up, Face the Day]]

Kakashi was late to the briefing.

It wouldn't have been so bad if the Intel agent shuffling his files behind the desk wasn't forty, greying, married, and male. Ryouma rearranged all his conversational gambits, tried the safe ones and then the more edgy options, and still got nothing more than grunted monosyllables and, once, a flicker of a scowl. He wouldn't have even known it was Kakashi they were waiting for if the Intel agent hadn't unwisely asked him, just after he entered the tiny briefing room, whether he'd seen Hatake in the hall.

In retrospect, Ryouma probably shouldn't have pounced with questions. (He's back from his mission? When'd he get back? How come they're sending him out again? Who're we killing? Sure you're not setting me up for another ambush this time?) The briefer shut up tighter than any bank vault, and Ryouma eventually shoved the chairs aside and started doing one-handed push-ups just to keep himself awake.

He was on twenty-three when the door opened, and he counted twenty-four and twenty-five out of sheer stubbornness before he looked up. "Welcome back, genius. Got tired of running?" He rolled into a crouch, chest heaving as he caught his breath. The view was better, from here; he could actually see a narrow slice of Kakashi's pale face and a single grey eye between the mask and hitai'ate.

"Or'd you just miss my scintillating conversation an' supernatural good looks? I gotta warn you, I'm going masked this time."
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Wake Up in the Breakdown [closed to Genma & Hayate] [Feb. 12th, 2009|04:28 pm]

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[Immediately follows Walking in Your Footsteps. Takes place night/early morning of March 17 and 18 ]

Running clear of the smoke and chaos of the city was a huge relief. They weren't being followed--Genma checked every several minutes for any sign of pursuit, but there was none. He took the rear position, letting Hayate lead, watching him carefully for any sign he was faltering, but if anything he seemed to be improving: taking surer steps, increasing his pace. The pain pills and soldier pills must have hit their peak, he thought. And the bandage around Hayate's broken arm was holding, thank every god who might be listening.

After an hour of steady flight, Genma finally let his guard drop just a little. Aside from themselves, there were no signs of life other than the occasional hunting owl or bat, and a few scurrying mice and other nocturnal prey in the leaf litter. The moon cast sharp shadows, and the air smelled warm for March, and damp, as if it might rain in a day or two, but for now the sky held stars and a few scudding clouds--no threat. It looked like maybe their bad luck had come and gone.

Genma sighed, feeling adrenaline finally easing away. It left a headache in its wake and an awareness of every cut and bruise the fight had inflicted. A hint of a bellyache--had he taken a kick to the gut and didn't remember it? It had been such a sudden and furious battle... How had they been found out? That was a major problem. By now whoever had sent those ninja to ambush them would no doubt be aware their mission had failed. It was a problem for Intel, he told himself. No sense making his head ache worse worrying about a problem he couldn't solve.

He whistled to catch Hayate's attention, and flashed him coded signs. Doing okay? His partner nodded, not breaking stride even a little. Genma nodded back and concentrated on making sure they left no trail to be traced. Home was only another eight or nine hours' run away, if Hayate could hold out that long.

Another hour into their journey, and Genma was really starting to feel his body's hurts. Cuts and bruises burned and pulled, and his belly felt almost like he'd eaten something that disagreed. The headache, too was unrelenting. He didn't want to stop. Probably getting dehydrated, he told himself, trying to remember the last time he'd had any water. He tipped his mask up and sucked down a few mouthfuls from his canteen, tossing back another soldier pill and adding a pain pill for good measure. Then he sped up to tap Hayate on the shoulder and hold out a pair of tablets for him, reasoning that since his meds were wearing off, Hayate's had to be, too.
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Hit the Mark [Natsumi and Kaito] [Jan. 10th, 2009|10:35 pm]
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[[Takes place March 16, seven days after The Dogs Ate My Homework]]

The messenger hawk found Shiota Natsumi in the third ranged weapons training field, prying her arrows out of a wooden target already badly abused by the team of genin who'd used the range earlier that morning. She glanced up at its sharp cry, narrowing her eyes against the sun, and grinned in sudden delight. "A mission already?" Her father had warned her that in his day, rookie ANBU agents often waited weeks before they got their first assignments--but apparently things had changed in the last twenty years. The tattoo on Natsumi's right biceps had barely stopped stinging, and the abused skin still pulled a bit as she tugged the last arrow free and held up her hand to the hawk.

It swept in, dropped a sealed scroll in her hand, and surged up into the sky again. Natsumi tilted her head back to admire its flight, but her hands kept moving, slitting the seal with a thumbnail and unrolling the message it had brought.

A mission, as she'd guessed. B-ranked, which wasn't surprising; extraction, not assassination, which was. Natsumi skimmed the mission assignment quickly, then reread, with extra attention to detail. A Konoha Intel field operative stationed in southern Fire Country had missed a planned rendezvous with his pick-up, who'd somehow managed to relay the information back to the village. If the agent was still alive, Konoha wanted him back--quietly. And the Mission Desk had assigned a two-man team to do it.

They were supposed to meet at 1350. That left barely enough time for Natsumi to race back to her apartment, collect her newly issued gear, and make it to the meeting point at Konoha's north gates, and certainly not enough time to get any more information about what they were heading into. Her father had said newly minted rookies usually took their first few missions with an experienced veteran. Hopefully, this Morioka Kaito would know exactly what they were doing.
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Mission Assignment [Dec. 30th, 2008|02:56 pm]

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Mission Rank: A
Agents Assigned: Shiranui Genma 010203, Gekkou Hayate 011671
Operations to commence: 3/16
Description/Objectives: Travel northwest to the city of Juunan and infiltrate the offices of Oimikado Hanabi. Retrieve documentation listing names and financial standings and contributions of her political backers. Kill Mitsugawa Osamu, Oimikado's chief assistant, in such a way that his body will be discovered with the body of an underage prostitute (choice of ancillary target to be at agents' discretion) and implicating Oimikado for the murder. Documents extracted during infiltration are to be copied and delivered to a drop location whose coordinates will be provided by field Intel operatives after mission is underway.
Possible Hazards: Oimikado's office is guarded and alarmed. Documents to be extracted may be contained in a safe.

By authority of Arakaki Hisoka, Director of ANBU Operations
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Mission: Blow Things Up [Closed to Katsuko and Kotetsu] [Nov. 12th, 2008|08:27 pm]
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[Current Mood | amused]

[Takes place after Justify My Reasons]

Katsuko slapped another explosion tag on the back of an unsuspecting guard and translocated to the rendezvous point, laughing under her breath.

Poor bastard. Just his luck that he was guarding this particular warehouse tonight.

She waited, crouched in the tree branch, until the distant boom of the explosion tag going off startled the other guards awake. Grinning ferally under her mask, she slapped her hands together and spread her chakra out into twenty substantial clones. They flitted off into the night to wreak havoc on the smugglers' base. With that done, she leaned back against the tree branch, waiting for the kid to finish with his part of the mission and report back.
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Mission Desk [Sep. 27th, 2008|12:20 pm]

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Mission Rank: B
Number of agents requested: Two - Arai Ryuichi, Chuunin, 019904; Gekkou Hayate, Special Jounin, 011671
Description/Objectives: merchant Escort Kondo Eiichi and his jewel caravan from Ise Gai in the Fire Country to Tsumago, a town just inside the border of Grass Country. There have been several groups of bandits roaming the way between the villages, and the jewel in question is worth 2.5 million ryou. Its protection is of utmost importance.
Possible Hazards: Attacks by bandits are a near certainty. Iwagakure activity has also been reported in the area recently.
Special Notes: The client requires that agents wear their masks at all times. Engage with and eliminate bandits as necessary, but do not engage non-hostile Iwa nin unless attacked. Agents preassigned due to need for specific skill sets.

By authority of Arakaki Hisoka, Director of ANBU Operations
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Incident at Shimabashi: Opening [closed to Genma] [Sep. 16th, 2008|08:03 pm]

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[Current Mood | aggravated]

Takes place in late February

It was a fluke that Genma was still in Akatani that morning. His mission had taken longer than expected, as his target had failed to appear for three whole days. Genma had lain in wait, crouched immobile, concealed by ornate architecture and shadowy genjutsu, on the tiled roof of a small outbuilding on the estate, for every one of those days. It was an excellent spot, hidden behind a fire-protection dolphin decorating the tiled rooftop, so close that he could hear the business of the household. The mistress scolding a servant for damaging the brocade on a heavy winter kimono. Cleaning girls gossiping about some local Lothario that one of the kitchen staff had been seen entertaining. Cooks preparing freshly-caught fish for the nightly meal. That had been especially trying, smelling mouthwatering odors of what was clearly daily fare for this household, while Genma had had to content himself with a sticky-dry ration bar and a few swallows of water from his canteen.

If he'd had his choice in this, he would have simply infiltrated the house in dark of night, slit the man's throat in his sleep, and left the body to stain the silken bed sheets scarlet. )
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