|[Sep. 18th, 2013|10:56 pm]|
The captain nodded. “Radios on.”|
Kakashi moved. Out of the red house, past the burdened clone, straight up the tall wall made of earth and lumber. It narrowed sharply at the top, barely as wide as a woman’s wrist. Easy enough for a ninja to stand on.
The lieutenant joined him a second later, ponytail whipping like a flag in the breeze. “Claw marks there,” he said, tipping his chin towards long pale gashes ripped across the wood. “Drag marks further into the woods.”
Kakashi crouched on the wall’s edge, but the raw copper reek from his hands covered anything subtler. He scowled, worked a quick jutsu, and yanked the water out of the blood. A gritty residue stayed behind; he slapped it away from his hands and armor. The scent would still linger, but it wouldn’t overpower.
Steel-mold-sulphur curled up from the claw marks.
“Got it.” He buckled his radio collar into place, slipped the earbud in, and glanced aside. “Do you need me to stay at your pace?”
“Don’t get too far ahead,” Genma said.
That was something.
Kakashi brushed his fingertips over his tattoo and threw himself off the wall. This side of the village backed straight up into heavy forest, with blue mountains cutting up into the pale sky just a few short miles away. There were three more villages scattered close by, clustered around the larger town of Mizudera like beads on a coiled string. But that could wait for later. For now—
A broken branch with fresh-dried sap.
Scrapes over bark at head height.
Either these things were really tall, or they moved through the trees as easily as they ran over ground. Dried red-brown droplets on a bruised leaf caught his attention. The husband’s blood again.
He followed the trail for a mile, to make sure it stayed true, and found himself up in the canopy just as often as he was near the ground. They were heading due north, towards the mountains, and they could definitely climb.
Behind him, three moving chakra signatures were rendered nearly invisible in the noise of Katsuko’s hornet swarm. Kakashi thumbed his radio-comm open, waited for the static hiss, and said, “Catch up.”
A half-second later, Genma landed on his branch. “I don’t see any outlying trails.”
“Me neither,” Kakashi said. He picked his next words carefully. “How many legs are you counting?”
Behind the mask, Genma’s eyes were just a fraction wider than usual. “Ten or twelve,” he said. “You get the same thing?”
“Six apiece,” Kakashi said. “And they’re not small.”
“Like I said, something you’d see in the Forest of Death. But those don’t forage into villages.”
“Because we walled them in,” Kakashi said.