Ryouma's hands found the seals without thought. Ten seals, two heartbeats, and there was reddish-black chakra roiling around his fingers and a triple-jointed, spike-armored leg within reach. He slammed his palms against the inside of the highest joint and shoved chakra through, and the leg—
Dust crumbled against his palms, but no liquid ooze of dissolving muscle. The thing twisted its plate-armored head, wrenching Katsuko's body by the shoulder like a child's broken toy. She made a raw, animal noise of rage and pain and sliced at its neck with her kodachi, but the steel only skidded, striking sparks. Snarling, she shortened her grip and stabbed at an eye.
The thing made a weird, whining hiss and released her, lashing its head around to bite at the blade. Steel screamed under strain, and snapped.
And now there was moisture leaking between Ryouma's fingers, the thick reek of decay bubbling into the air. The leg lurched. The beast dropped the sword-shards and slewed its head around, one punctured eye leaking fluid, the other glaring yellow fire.
Blue lightning punched through its thorax. It screeched, six spiked legs skittering in its death throes, and something whistled over Ryouma's head so close that it raked through his hair. He cut the jutsu and lurched back, grabbing Katsuko by the straps of her armor, and saw what he hadn't before: a curved, segmented tail and a bulbous sting dripping fluid. A stray spatter struck his shoulder, and the skin went numb.
White-hearted fire boiled drizzle out of the air, smeared a dazzling bar across Ryouma's sight, and hit the second beast square on its armored abdomen. It screeched and reared back on two sets of legs, raking a third pair through the rain. Beneath it, bloody from neck to knees, Raidou surged up with a black sword unsheathed. He didn't try to cut; he simply rammed the blade between two overlapping plates of the carapace, high on its underbelly. The beast screeched again and climbed higher, trying to free a second set of legs to tear at him. He planted his knee in the muddy ground and threw his weight behind the blade, and the beast toppled backward like a tree falling. Its legs waved wildly in the air.
Genma slipped out of the trees with a kunai in each hand, crouched behind the thrashing head, and drove both kunai haft-deep into the blazing yellow eyes. The flailing legs curled over its belly, and were still.
In the rain-spattered silence, Raidou said distinctly, "Fucking ow." He straightened painfully, eyed the black-bladed sword protruding from the beast's belly, and visibly decided not to withdraw it yet. Instead, he looked around for his team. "Everyone okay?"
Ryouma wasn't sure he'd ever catch his breath again. "Paralytic," he said. "In their tails. That's how they got most of those people without a fight." He rubbed his numbed shoulder with a filthy hand, and looked down at Katsuko.
Her shoulder wasn't as bad as he'd feared—not the chewed mess a mammal would have left, but two deep puncture wounds, torn ragged at the edges and bleeding freely. She ignored them completely. She was holding the hilt of her shattered kodachi, and he could hear the glower in her voice. "Damn thing broke my sword."
Kakashi made a thin noise of disgust, pulled a medkit out of one of his hip pouches, and came over to clamp a thick wad of gauze over her shoulder. His right hand, Ryouma noticed, was burned clean, and smoking slightly. "You're lucky nothing else is broken," he said. Katsuko's breath huffed out in what might have been a laugh, or a groan.
Genma was back on his feet, scrubbing his fluid-soaked hands with an alcohol wipe. "Ram, did you get tagged with the poison? What's your status, Moon?" He dropped the wipe on the armored carcass, pulled out a second one, and began circling Raidou as he scrubbed, as if cataloguing injuries.