|[Sep. 18th, 2013|11:16 pm]|
There was a phrase for that particular lieutenant trick of asking a question and heavily hinting the right answer. It was called ‘managing up’. Raidou had never seen it from this side before, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.|
Still, a decent captain knew when to get the hell out of the way and let his team loose.
He nodded once. “We’ll start with that: recon, see if we can find survivors, and go from there. Hound, how many Raikiri can you do in a day?”
“Four,” said Kakashi. “But if the bugs cluster, I can hit more than one with the same attack.”
“And with soldier pills?”
“Maybe six, but I wouldn’t be standing afterwards.”
“Let’s try and keep collapsing to a minimum,” Raidou said. “Same for you, Ram. Save your chakra where you can.”
Ryouma snorted. “What, you’re not looking forward to the task of hauling my ass back?”
Raidou opened his mouth to say—something, but Ryouma had already caught himself; his crooked smile slipped away, replaced by the approximate game face of a professional shinobi. He yanked a kunai out and used the point to begin scraping the foul mess of black and yellow gunk from beneath his nails. “Sure. Guess we’re in it for the long haul.”
Katsuko glanced at him, then at Raidou, and shrugged, returning to the map. “Since the scorpion-dogs feed on chakra, I could act as bait if things go south. We do need a backup plan if they detect us, right?”
“Level the mountain,” Raidou said, dusting his bloody hands off and climbing to his feet. “There’s enough firepower here to do that, even without explosives. Tanuki and I can carry home whoever faints.”
Four heads turned to look at Kakashi, who colored. “It was one time,” he said.
“Twice, if you count Trials,” Genma said mildly. He looked at Raidou and Katsuko. “How are you feeling now? Blood pills kicking in?”
“Yep, no problems,” said Raidou. “Rat?”
“Back to badass, captain,” Katsuko said, straight-faced, and offered him a tiny, deadly fist to tap.
He bumped knuckles with her and put his mask back on. “Then let’s go.”
It was a good two miles to the end of the trail Kakashi had abandoned in favor of returning to his team. From what Raidou could tell, the rain had sluiced everything clean. But Kakashi crouched and studied the ground, and Genma’s mask tilted thoughtfully. Both of them looked north.
“Abandoned mine?” Raidou said.
“It’s heading the right way,” Genma said.
Kakashi stood, blurred slightly in the silver halo of rain, and vanished. He was back a few seconds later. “Chakra signatures ahead—feels like bugs.”
“How many?” Genma asked.
“I counted twenty-two,” Kakashi said. “Could be more deeper.”
Ryouma glanced back. “How about behind?”
“Does your ass have teeth marks?” Kakashi inquired.
Dark brown eyes gave Kakashi a flat look through the rain-soaked mask. "I can strip down now and let you check,” Ryouma said. “Or you could answer my question.”
“Boundaries, boys,” Katsuko said cheerfully, and drew her unbroken katana.
“There’s nothing behind,” Kakashi said.
Genma pulled out his map for the briefest of moments, shielding it from the rain. “If we skirt away from this path and cut northwest, we should get to the accessory shaft.”
Kakashi’s masked face turned silently, looking at Raidou.
Raidou flicked the ANBU hand-sign for scout ahead, and was not at all surprised when Kakashi nodded and vanished. Someone had been studying. Also gratifying was the response from Ryouma, who signed Katsuko’s bastardized version of and me?
Close guard, Raidou signed.
Ryouma nodded and slipped to one side, taking Raidou’s left. Katsuko was his mirror image on Raidou’s right. Genma took point, following on Kakashi’s heels. Which left the old familiarity of rear guard for Raidou.
He could barely see his team through the grey curtain of rain, which was only getting heavier. He couldn’t feel their chakra at all; even Katsuko’s was hammered down and clenched tight, drawn out of the sensing world. The only glimmer that gave them away was the ANBU spark, three close and one distant.
The radio hissed quietly. “Found the entrance,” Kakashi said. “There’s a two-bug guard. And—I think I can feel people.”