Ultimate Shinobi - A Naruto RPG
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Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private]

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Age : 27
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Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptySat 01 Mar 2014, 6:01 am

• Pirates and Ships and Drugs… •
Oh My!

Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Untitl12


“That’s all I know! I swear! Please, don’t hur-!”

The brunette man’s blubbering was silenced as a black-gloved hand slapped over his mouth. A smiling, white mask leaned closer until it was inches from the terrified, mousey visage of the whimpering man. A voice whispered softly from behind the face wear, high and scratchy.

“Thank you kindly…”

A dull “thump” sounded as a fist was planted into a soft gut, and the man’s cries where silenced. He slumped against the brick wall, body motionless save for the rise and fall of his chest. Masquerade hoisted the unconscious figure onto his shoulder, a feat made easier due to the object’s low mass. He then unceremoniously plopped the man onto a pile of garbage bags, shifting a few of the waste-filled plastic bags to make his presence a little less obvious. Once that trivial arrangement of trash was completed, the Nukenin dusted his hands in satisfaction. Turning swiftly on his heel, he hoisted himself up onto an overhanging pipe, and proceeded to manually climb to the top of the dark alleyway he was in. Feet impacted on a concrete surface as the shinobi surfaced from the alley shrouded in darkness, and into the open night air. The landscape was lit by the circular, silver orb hanging in the black-blue sky above, and the night was quiet save for the faint chirping of crickets and the meowing of cats. Rooftop reached, the man scanned his surroundings to determine his bearings, prior to scampering off in a particular direction. Booted feet padded lightly as Masquerade navigated the rooftop world, his movements otherwise devoid of any other sound or noticeable presence.

His jog abruptly shifted into a flip as he neared a gap between two buildings; the aerial maneuver had him drop down into the alley, landing feet first on a waiting lamppost. From there, the shinobi hopped lower onto a brick wall below, assuming a frog-like stance as he perched on the narrow ledge. The masked face was then lowered to the individual below him, leaning silently against the wall. The male was older, shorter, and plumper, with a few wisps of silver visible amongst the brown hair growing wildly from his wrinkled, balding scalp. Thick, bushy brows of brown and gray hung over sharp, ice-blue eyes, each of which had a black mole underneath. His attire was casual but dark, allowing him to blend in rather well with the shadowy backdrop of this alley; though, he was not actually standing in the dark, but was illuminated by the light from the aforementioned lamppost. A lit cigarette was fixed lazily between his calloused, sausage-like fingers, the gray trail of burning substance at its end rising upwards to Masquerade. The man exhaled a heavy cloud of gray, and Masquerade spoke.

“Have I kept you waiting long, Nanase Fugaku?”

The aged man jerked dramatically, swearing loudly as he spun around to look up at Masquerade. His hastened breathing took a few seconds to diminish in rapidity, during which he clutched the front of his coat above his heart, shaking his head in frustration. “God damn you ninja! Damn you and your whole stealthy shit!” he mumbled exasperatedly, taking a deep breath of air (and his cigarette) before looking questioningly up at the Nukenin positioned theatrically three feet above.

“Well? Learn anything important?”

Masquerade did not make any physical motion, remaining perched on his, well, perch. He did, however, answer verbally without unnecessary delay, speaking in a slow and thoughtful drawl. “The ship will leave in an hour from the Eastern port. I’ll make sure I’m onboard when it departs.”

Fugaku nodded, looking pleased with the brief statement. Securing his drug between his yellowed teeth, he reached into his coat’s inner pocket and pulled out a small box. The container was unlocked to reveal a small, tightly-sealed scroll case, which was lifted out and tossed lightly up to the shinobi. Masquerade wordlessly snatched the item from the air as Fugaku returned the box to his pocket, clarifying to the other: “Keep that with you. It’s got some kind of gizmo sealed in it that’ll let you get in contact with us. Use it to let us know when you’ve found their base of operations, got it? Also, no one’s going to come to your aid, so don’t bother using it to call for help if you get in a pinch. Clear?” The man confidently took another whiff of his cigarette, watching Masquerade nod slowly and slip the item into his pouch. Fugaku then broke the brief silence to pose a question. “As for that informant… I’m assuming he’s now six feet under?”

The words did not come out apprehensively or uncertainly; they had been delivered calmly and mundanely, as if it was as normal a query to make as asking someone for their name. It was clear what the man was asking, and just based on the tone of his voice - the dispassionate, unperturbed tone – it was also clear just what kind of person this man was, and what kind of activities he might be involved in.

“If you’re asking whether the informant is dead… then the answer is “no”.” The carefree response made Fugaku’s eyes widened in anger, and he opened his mouth in preparation to scold Masquerade, but the shinobi forestalled him by elaborating in an unfazed manner. “His presence on that ship will be expected. For an operation as sensitive as this, even the slightest oddity could cause problems. Should the informant not join the ship’s crew, it might arouse suspicion. The entire trip might be cancelled as a result, and this whole mission would be jeopardized. Yoshino Hibiki would not want that, would he?”

Fugaku snorted irritably. “That’s good logic and everything, but what happens when that guy tells his boss that he was interrogated by a shinobi?! Huh?! Then the mission will be jeopardized!”

If it could be seen, the smile on Masquerade’s actual face could have been likened to that on his mask. “I do not think we need to worry about anything unwanted being said. Fear should keep our dear informant’s mouth shut when it is required. I was very… detailed when I explained what would happen should he say something about our meeting.”

“Detailed” was one way of describing Masquerade’s actions. Another way would be to call it “unnecessarily elaborate”. The Nukenin had cornered the informant in that alley after trailing him for several minutes, waiting for the optimal moment. The man had been pretty much asking to be ambushed by Masquerade when he stepped into that dark, abandoned alleyway. Like a ghost clad in purple, the shinobi had descended upon the unsuspecting informant and confronted him. The man had displayed no courage from the moment Masquerade appeared; an expected trait, as that was the primary reason why this man had been chosen as the target to interrogate. The spineless ones were the easiest to crack, after all. And this one had been beyond easy to crack. He had been so terrified by Masquerade’s sudden appearance that he had fallen to his knees and begun begging for his life.

That being said, the informant had not been so willing to give Masquerade all the information he had needed. With the correct incentive, however, the canary had started to sing. The man’s cowardice had made Masquerade’s work all the more easier, and his planned course of action had been even simpler to pull off. The shinobi had pinned the informant as a pill was stuffed down his throat; following that, a Bunshin disguised as a random civilian was “procured” from the shadows by Masquerade, who it was revealed had also been fed the same pill that the informant had just taken. The frightened informant had then watched as Masquerade had calmly snapped his fingers, causing the Bunshin to dispel in a small explosion of acid (and false, yet convincing, screams of agony). The overall result was that the informant was led to believe that Masquerade could cause anyone who ingested one of his pills to erupt like a heated kernel. And as Masquerade had remarked with a malicious air, the same fate awaited the man if he did not start talking.

It was fortunate that the man was so frightened and over-imaginative, otherwise the falsity of the ploy might have been discovered. The pill was nothing more than a blood pill, offering no detrimental or fatal effects to the consumer. But Masquerade was the only one who knew that. As it was, the man revealed all that there was to, and was left with the blatant threat: if he so much as implied that he had met with Masquerade, the Nukenin would know, and would make it rain human innards.

That had surely soiled some underwear.  

“I took advantage of his overly-dramatic imagination and general cowardice, Nanase Fugaku. I am confident that he will abide by my words. However, if you do not have faith in my actions, you may go ensure that he is silenced yourself. Just bear in mind the reasons I gave for why he must remain alive. There is a greater benefit in keeping him alive than killing him.”

Fugaku raised an eyebrow up at Masquerade (or rather, he tried and seemingly failed to because of its thickness), and sighed audibly. “Honestly, you ninja drive me crazy sometimes. Sometimes you kill people when you shouldn’t, and sometimes you don’t when you should. Hell if I know what goes on through your heads.” Reaching into his coat, he pulled out a hat and slapped it over his head, preparing to depart; but not before he looked pointedly up at Masquerade, eyes narrowed solemnly as he pointed the cigarette up at the latter. “Don’t screw this up, alright? Yoshino-dono needs to know where those pirates are storing their shipments, and he doesn’t appreciate failure; especially from ninja. For your sake, get this job done, no matter the cost.”

Masquerade tilted his head forward in acknowledgement. “Naturally. The mission’s completion takes precedence.”

With that, he leaped up into the darkness and out of sight.

Jutsu Used:

Special Characteristics Used:

Chakra Remaining:

Last edited by Ulkira on Mon 17 Nov 2014, 6:56 am; edited 4 times in total
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Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Re: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptySun 02 Mar 2014, 7:40 am

“Tsk! Late, late, late…”

Wooden planks groaned as a pair of feet, sandwiched in straw sandals, trudged over them heavily; the next footfall landed not on sturdy yet slightly worn wood, but on rough, gritty concrete. The unremitting murmuring from the man’s lips was barely audible as he scanned the port, neon blue eyes flitting about as if he was trying to follow an insect’s flight. But there were no insects that Ichinose was looking at. No, the numerous people walking past him onto the ship may have been his subordinates, but they were not insignificant bugs. They were his employees, his crew members; as such, they were an integral part of his ship – and subsequently, a part of his soul.

What was making the man jittery was - as could be discerned from the single word he kept repeating voicelessly - the fact that he and his crew were falling behind schedule. They were to set sail in ten minutes, but there were some prerequisite conditions that had yet to be completed. The man ran a large, calloused hand through a head of spiky, cyan hair, his large forehead wrinkling as a frown befell his strong, squared face. A pocket watch was lifted out from his trousers, which he flipped open to inspect the time. A sigh escaped from between his lips as he looked up at the orderly line of men and women boarding the vessel behind, all of them dressed in attire expected of people accustomed to work and life on the sea.

“Hurry up, you lot! We’re late enough as it!” Ichinose barked angrily. His crew looked nervously at him, but their pace did not quicken. They all knew that their captain’s anxiety was not because of their slowness, but because of someone else’s tardiness. Ichinose grinded his teeth angrily as he peered intently around the port, bright blue eyes seemingly unfazed by the lack of good visibility. Dammit, Arata… Where the fuck have you gone? This whole trip will be ruined if you’re not here soon… No sooner had these words crossed the captain’s mind when his ears picked up the sound of running footsteps. A thick, muscled neck twisted as Ichinose looked towards the thin, impish man arriving at the scene. As the newcomer came to a panting, hunched stop in front of Ichinose, the much taller and robust man’s edgy demeanor was replaced by a calmer, sterner air. Toned, bared arms crossed over a muscled chest as the captain glared down crossly at the gasping brunette.

“You’re late, Arata! What the hell were you doing?!”

Amidst ragged breathing, the man identified as Arata managed to cough up a hasty reply: “Forgive me, Ichinose-dono! I, uh… tripped and fell into a dumpster…” Indeed, the smaller man did reek of filth, as was evident by the way Ichinose’s nose wrinkled in disgust. That, and the grime and filth that clung to his unruly hair and disheveled clothes gave further weight to his answer. Pinching his nostrils shut with a hand, Ichionse grumbled angrily at Arata to get to his station. The subordinate complied, hurrying past his captain and onto the boat. Ichinose shook his head in frustration, though the tension on his face had been alleviated considerably. This was good, after all. With Arata here, all the crew members had been accounted for. Everyone who needed to be here was here, and that was one of the first boxes on the list checked off. Casting a quick glance to confirm that everyone was nearly on board, the muscled man marched back onto the boat with a more relaxed posture.

Meanwhile, a hunched figure slipped out from the shadows between two buildings, knees bent to keep his head low. With quick and silent steps, the purple-clad form made his way to the edge of the port; the low lighting (or [ilack[/i] of lighting) made it harder for him to be seen, and by repeatedly seeking cover behind the various obstructions situating the concrete port (such as closed shops, posts, and even the occasional wooden crate), he was able to sneak closer to his destination without being spotted. It also helped that he was well-practiced in the art of stealth. In a matter of seconds, he had reached his destination. Reaching the edge of the harbor, the figure dropped down from the wooden surface, a pair of spectral wings materializing from his back. Rather than hit the water beneath him, he came to a hovering stop a few feet above the shifting surface. Leaning his upper torso forward, he silently flew closer to the ship.

“Everything set down here?”

“Yes, Sir. All the containers have been accounted for. We’re ready to go here.”

“We double-checked the number of crates, as well as the contents. There wasn’t anything amiss.”

“Excellent. Good work. Alright, just stay down here until the guard shows up, and then head over to your posts.”

“Yes, Captain!” “Yes, Captain!”

Nodding at the two saluting sailors, Ichinose threw one more look around the brightly-lit, wooden cabin, in which were arranged multiple, orderly piles of wooden crates. He then left the two men to watch over the containers while he made his way down the hallway and to the flight of stairs nearby. He would ascend these and three others before stepping out onto the ship’s large, spacious deck. The rest of the crew was hurrying around the wooden surface, preparing for departure. Satisfied as always with the efficiency of his men, the captain smiled to himself as he made his way over to the back of the ship, where the sailing master stood at the ship’s wheel. The captain stood beside this blonde man, and after a few minutes of conversing, the signal was given to depart. The sails had been lowered, the anchor had been pulled up, and the navigational instruments had been brought out. Without further delay, the vessel at last set out from the port and towards the dark sea beyond. They were off.

Several minutes would pass when Ichinose would head down to the aftercastle and to his cabin, leaving the deck matters to his quartermaster – not that it was really necessary. His crew did not need constant supervision, because they were all sensible enough to know that they had a job to do. Such professionalism was expected and required of all those on Ichinose’s ship, as well as all those who worked for Shinji Uteki. The drug lord did not take kindly to people comprising the system she had worked so hard to build. That level of strictness was something that Ichinose could sympathize with, and this was actually one of the reasons why he was working for the drug lord. Opening the door to his cabin, Ichinose was treated to the usual sight that was the luxurious and spacious room. The best word to describe it would be “cushiony” - that, and “blue”. As the seaman entered his room, his cyan eyes slid to the window behind his desk, noticing that it was propped open. “Woops! Best close that!” Gritting his teeth in embarrassment, he hurried over to the aperture, snapping it shut. “Can’t have anything unwanted coming in.”

As he secured the fastening on the window, he paused for a moment, looking back towards the door. His forehead wrinkled in a show of seriousness as he moved back to the ajar door. He felt like he had heard something strange a moment ago. It had sounded like footsteps, as if someone had slipped through the gap between the door and the frame. Heading over to the door, he pushed it open and peered out into the hallway. The narrow passageway was not exactly brightly lit, seeing as a few ignited lamps hung from the brackets on the wall, but it was not so dark as to provide cover for someone. As it was, there was no one to be seen, a fact that made Ichinose knit his brow in confusion. He had been convinced that he’d sensed someone or something, and being a cautious man by nature, he would not say that it was just his imagination. For a moment, he paused in thought, and then looked straight up. His frown only deepened when he did not find anyone or anything out of place on the ceiling either. Scratching his head in wonder and muttering to himself, the cyan-haired captain retreated back into his cabin, closing the door behind him while muttering something his age.

The door to Ichinose’s cabin opened outwards into the hallway, meaning that when the seaman had opened it, he could not see what was directly behind the door. Now, with the door closed properly, the purple-clad that had been hiding in the corner behind the door was in plain view. The hooded head turned slowly to allow the green, oval eyes on the mask to glance over at the closed door, before the Nukenin unglued himself from the wall and swiftly made his way down the hallway. The masked visage measuredly inched from side to side, signifying that the eyes behind it were diligently surveying the surroundings in search of something. The smile carved onto the mask conveyed the shinobi’s amusement. Nothing but good fortune was responsible for the fact that the seaman had not thought to look in the blind spot created by the opened door. A very fortuitous occurrence for Masquerade, indeed.

A few levels below the floor where the captain’s cabin was, the room with the collection of crates was empty of human presence, save for one impish man. An anxious Arata was pacing back and forth among the columns of boxes, twisting his hands together and mumbling voicelessly to himself. At his waist was a wakizashi, and his sole presence there indicated that he was the person who had been charged with guarding the crates. At the moment, he appeared more preoccupied with his worries than actually keeping a diligent watch. He was walking in circles – tight, agitated circles. Clearly, he was debating something in his mind, and to anyone with the right information, it would be no surprise as to what exactly he was puzzling over. The question was a simple one: should he tell his captain that he had been interrogated by a shinobi? Was it worth the risk? With his hyperactive imagination, he could come up with reasons for why it was a good and bad idea to do so.

Whatever his train of thought, he did eventually come to a decision. Ceasing his pacing, the man raised his head high and squared his shoulders, looking determined. “I’ll tell him! I’ll tell Ichinose-sama what happened! Yeah! Goroboshi Arata is no coward! No he isn’t!” Confidently, Arata turned on his heel and made to march out into the hallway. The next moment, he froze as he saw a familiar figure standing right outside the doorway. The figure turned his head to look sideways at the stunned Arata from the hallway, illuminated by the swaying light bulb above his head. Slowly, and with great exaggeration, Masquerade raised a gloved hand until it was level with his smiling mask; his middle finger and thumb then came together in the beginnings of a snapping gesture.

Unsurprisingly, Arata gulped and spun around, trembling visibly as he abruptly sat down on his chair. Masquerade remained at the door in his previous pose for a few seconds, before lowering his hand and stepping into the room itself. The sentry did not turn as the shinobi entered, continuing to diligently look the other way. It seemed that he was afraid that simply acknowledging Masquerade’s presence would be a fatal mistake. How cooperative of him.

Masquerade cast an inspecting eye over the piled boxes, moving closer to one and digging his fingers into the gap under the lid to lift it open slightly. The smiling mask lowered a fraction to survey the neatly-stacked bags inside. Each was rectangular, about six inches at its longest, and made of a blackish-brown material that left its contents indiscernible. However, there was little to no doubt that this was the shipment that the shinobi had been sent to follow. From behind his mask, Masquerade’s brow furrowed thoughtfully. Each of the crates was probably holding more than twenty of these bags. And there were, what, at least fifty crates in here? Quite the sizeable operation, this.

“Just - just so you know… Those are all accounted for,” Arata squeaked up at that point, without turning his gaze. “If any go missing, they’ll know.” The guard waited a few seconds for a verbal response, or any other form of answer. When none came, he gingerly looked over his shoulder, only to find that the shinobi was no longer there. He seemed to have departed, though Arata did not know when. Regardless, the man allowed himself a deep exhalation of relief, but the anxious look on his seedy face did not lessen. He sighed fretfully and ran a hand through his hair, wondering what he’d gotten himself into.

Special Characteristics Used:

Last edited by Ulkira on Mon 17 Nov 2014, 6:57 am; edited 3 times in total
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Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Re: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptyFri 07 Mar 2014, 7:46 am

They were called “Raisins” on the streets, for some reason. Probably because they looked like raisins. Or maybe it was an inside joke? Whatever. The Raisins were a hallucinogenic drug. Or were they an anti-depressant? Masquerade could not remember. The amount of interest he held for narcotics would not fill a third of a pothead’s pipe. Narcotics could cause one to lose control of their senses and mind – and anyone who knew Masquerade would know that he treated anything that could induce such a state with the utmost disdain. To partake in any activity that would result in loss of mental and/or physical control, even if it was for recreation, was a major “no no”. Despite the hardships he’d gone through, he had never once resorted to any form of substance abuse; not even a single drop of alcohol had ever touched his lips. In fact, one could say that the male had done quite well in maintaining the health and vitality of his body. It helped when one had a profession as physically demanding as a shinobi’s. Granted, Masquerade looked to have less meat on his bones than a twelve-year-old, but the “clean” nature of his system was prevalent. Perhaps not the most boast-worthy accomplishment, but surely something to feel proud of nonetheless.

Back to the drug, though. This particular one was quite popular amongst the druggies, due to it being a… whatever the hell it was that made it so appealing. Though Masquerade failed to recall anything about the substance’s properties or effects, he did know that the biggest suppliers in Mizu no Kuni were two rival dealers: Yoshino Hibiki, and Shinji Uteki. These were just aliases, though, and not the drug lords’ actual names; anonymity was essential in this trade, it seemed. Both to garner a respected and enigmatic reputation, and to evoke a sense of security and power. But that was beside the point: the two were said to be constantly attempting to outshine the other with their products, services, and prices. According to what the Nukenin had heard thus far, the battle was currently at a standstill, with both sides being unable to decisively dominate the other. However, that did not mean that the competition would come to an end. Victory was still yearned for, and it was only a matter of time until one gang managed to score a game-changing point.

And it seemed that Yoshino Hibiki was eager to be the one to score first, as was evident by his latest plan. To acquire further details about his opponent’s shipping and distribution methods seemed like a basic and obvious course of action, but the secretive and thorough nature of the business meant that such information was hard to come by; which was also why it was so enticing to obtain that information. After all, humans naturally craved that which was difficult to possess: wealth, fame, happiness, safety. Greed could be an amusing trait like that.

But that was tangential to the situation at hand. The point was that Masquerade had been assigned the “honorable task” (as Nanase Fugaku had put it) of helping Hibiki outdo his rivals. This was a simple reconnaissance mission. All the Nukenin had to do - all that was required of him - was to tail the cargo and locate the base of Uteki’s drug-dealing operations. Whether he found their distribution site, manufacturing site, or anything else that pertained to the gang’s drug operation, he had to relay that information to his employer as rapidly as possible. This mission called for stealth, speed, and integrity. Stealth, to enable him to find the information he sought; speed, to have it delivered as quickly to the required recipient; and integrity, to ensure he could keep his mouth shut when needed. The point that had been stressed most to the hired shinobi had been that the opposing gang could not, under any circumstances, come to know that Hibiki’s group had been the ones to send Masquerade. Disclosure of such knowledge could lead to many undesirable outcomes for both parties. Masquerade had not needed the full details or any proper explanation for why discretion was so vital. Cautious and loath to unnecessary nuisances as he was, Masquerade could appreciate his employer’s insistence on secrecy. After all, it was the reason why Masquerade had not made a fuss about not actually being able to meet his employer, and only being allowed to communicate through a liaison, namely Nanase Fugaku.

Hidden green eyes blinked, and the bowed, hooded head lifted up slowly. Masquerade perked his ears, straining them to hear properly. Was it his imagination, or had the sound of the wind blowing outside calmed down a little? And had the rocking of the boat lessened significantly? In other words, had the sailing ship come to a stop? It was hard to answer these questions confidently when one was sitting in a small, dark, empty room on what was probably a bucket. There were no windows, no light source, and very little leg room in here. Luxurious, indeed. He’d been in here for a decent amount of time, probably close to an hour; since leaving the room where the Raisins were being stored, the shinobi had taken a brief, limited tour of the ship’s lower deck, before slipping into this dark room/cupboard/closet to wait out the trip. He had purposely chosen this spot because it did not seem that anyone was frequenting this area. It was still close to the storage room (only one level above), but still quite a distance from the deck, or the captain’s cabin. In other words, Masquerade would not be likely to run into someone in his current hiding spot. That, and if someone did come his way, he would know well beforehand. Sitting in that dark room, he was constantly scanning the ship with his mind, keeping a diligent eye on the numerous chakra signatures crawling over the vessel.

The sailors here were not ninja, though that did not mean that they would not be a formidable threat. They had the advantage of numbers, and they were all no doubt seasoned combatants. In any case, Masquerade was supposed to remain hidden, so getting caught was an outcome that was to be avoided even more. Patience was a necessity in a recon mission, and luckily, Masquerade was a patient individual. It helped when one had a tendency to get lost in their own thoughts, and go on divergent trains of thoughts.  

Kind of like now. Wasn’t he just wondering if the ship had stopped moving a moment ago?

Rising to his feet, Masquerade made to tentatively open the door and step out into the relatively brighter hallway, but paused with his hand on the doorknob. He looked up, as if he could see through the shadowed, wooden ceiling, when in truth, he was actually reading the chakra signatures moving in his mind’s eye. A few of the masses on the deck and the floors above were beginning to move about, heading down to the lower levels of the ship. Masquerade could sense them descending down to his level, and he felt them continue on down to the room where the drugs were being kept. He also felt the signature of the person he assumed to be the ship’s captain (the one’s who’s cabin window the Nukenin had boarded the ship through) leaving his cabin and climbing up to the deck. The masked shinobi’s brows knitted behind his mask in contemplation. It seemed that something was about to happen.

Once he was sure that no one else would be coming down the stairs, Masquerade stepped out of the small room and out into the hallway, looking around carefully despite not sensing anyone’s presence nearby. He silently inched down the hallway and to the flight of stars that led to the level below. He did not go down, however, instead listening carefully to the voices and sounds drifting up to him from below. What he heard made him deduce that the cargo was being moved from its current location, but exactly to where, he was not sure. All he knew was that the men that had just gone down to the storage room would be coming back up with the crates of Raisins to take them up to the deck - for some reason. Masquerade stepped away from the descending flight of stairs, but did not go back to his hiding place. Instead, he made his way up the winding staircase that led to the upper levels. He needed to know where the containers where being moved to, and he needed to be on the deck for that to happen.

Of course, he couldn’t just swagger on up to the deck - not unless he wanted to hold the title of being the most conspicuous ninja in history. Therefore, instead of continuing up the stairs and onto the deck, he instead stopped at another level and went in search of a window. It did not take long to find one, and luckily, it was unlocked as well. Opening the aperture, he easily squeezed through the opening and out in the night air, keeping himself from succumbing to gravity’s malevolent pull using his wings. He would then turn around in midair and direct his flight path higher, bringing himself around to the back of the ship. There, he would tentatively ascend higher until he could see over the ledge, making sure to keep all his senses trained for any enemy movement. Determining for certain that no one was there to see him, he would climb up onto the deck, keeping his head as low as he could (effectively crawling along on all fours, like a primate of some sort), until he managed to secure a nice hiding spot in an alcove, blocked from view by a collection of wooden barrels. Having stayed close to the edge of the ship, he could jump off at any time, so an escape route was still open.

It was risky being up here, but he was he quite hopeful that he would not be spotted. From his position, Masquerade could see the line of men emerging from below deck, carrying the wooden crates among themselves as they began placing them towards the starboard end of the ship. He, Masquerade, was on port, and seemed to be the only one on this side at the moment. Almost all of the crew on deck were gathered on the other end, helping the sailors bringing up the cargo. There were a lot of containers, after all, and their contents were clearly so valuable as to require great care when handling them. Even the ship’s captain was in that corner, supervising the procedure with his commanding subordinates. One could almost taste the efficacy in the air.

One could also hear the voice that suddenly rose above the other sailors’ chattering. Masquerade started slightly, looking around wildly, thinking that his presence had been discovered. However, he was wrong: one of the pirates had called attention to the waters towards the right of the ship. The captain had raised his telescope to peer in the direction of the dark mass approaching the ship over the water. Even to the naked eye, small dots that indicated interior lights could be seen on the shape. Masquerade did not need the captain’s call for everyone to get ready to know that this approaching shape was another sailing ship. Based on what the Nukenin had seen so far, he had a good idea as what was happening right now. As the other sailing ship neared, and this one made no effort to flee from it or defend against it, he became more convinced of the validity of his guess.

Switching ships, eh? Clever.

The newly-arrived vessel anchored itself next to the stationary one, and after a few seconds, several wide planks were lowered to connect the gap between the two ships. Without delay, the men on the first ship began to lift up the crates and carry them onto the second ship. As this occurred, the captain of the first ship moved to speak to the captain of the other, addressing him from over the gap between each vessel. Masquerade could not catch much of their conversation, owning to it being held at a low tone that was muffled by the sounds of the working crew members. But, the conversation was not Masquerade’s main priority. What mattered right now was getting onto the other ship to ensure he was not separated from the cargo. By the looks of it, all of the drugs were being moved onto the other ship. Consequently, Masquerade would have to move as well.

A troublesome turn of events, but not one that was impossible to overcome. Turning away from the action, the Nukenin soundlessly dropped off the side of the ship, materializing his wings to hover just a few inches above the sea’s surface. Keeping himself as low as he could, he flew around the edge of the ship, hugging the side to make it harder to be seen from anyone above. Curving around the back of the ship, he paused to make sure that no one had seen him so far, or would see him should he continue. Once the positive had been ascertained, he resumed his flight, going around until he was on the starboard side of the second ship – the side where the connecting planks were not placed. Once he was there, he looked up at the curving side of the wooden vessel, scanning the various windows. Cautiously, he flew from one to the other, looking for one that he could enter through. A few minutes of stressed searching, and he found one. It took some doing, but he managed to fit himself through the circular opening; he had to bend and twist his body through many awkward positions to get himself through. Certainly, his wiry form helped a great deal here, but it was still an arduous task. After an undignified attempt to climb in through a window, and an even more embarrassing face plant as he pulled himself out of the small opening, the Nukenin was in.

Sliding a hand over his mask to ensure that it had not been damaged when hitting the wooden floorboards, he rose to his feet and looked around the room. He looked to be in a storeroom of some kind; probably a wine cellar, seeing as there were a multitude of barrels occupying the room. There was no one else in the dimly-lit room, probably because everyone onboard was busy doing their jobs and not slacking off down here. Fortunate for him.

Stepping forward, the masked shinobi navigated around the obstacle course of barrels and to the opposite end of room, where he spied a door. He opened the door fractionally and glanced outside alertly, despite being convinced that no one would be down here at this time; and he was right. He stepped out into the hallway and folded his arms behind his back, looking up and down the passageway thoughtfully. He supposed the next course of action would be to determine where the drugs would be kept on this ship, and then find himself a suitable hiding spot nearby to wait for events to unfold. Staying close to the cargo seemed even wiser now than before. Who knew if it was going to be moved to another ship again, or be taken straight to its final destination? It would be logical to stay within close proximity of his target.

Speaking of prudent… Closing his eyes, he concentrated on his surroundings. He was surprised that he had not bothered to scan the chakra signatures on the ship before boarding it. Being the cautious individual paranoid coward that he was, evaluating his surroundings frequently was a common course of action for him. As he swept his senses over the ship, numerous chakra blobs popped up in his mind’s eye, all of the same strength as the ones of the previous ship, albeit in a slightly greater quantity. Good, nothing but seasoned seamen to worry abou-.

Damn it, the rogue ninja cursed mentally, opening his eyes and looking up at the ceiling. The smile on his mask was misleading, for an intense of frown of displeasure had shaped itself onto his obscured face. This ship did not carry just a band of pirates. There were shinobi aboard as well. Two of them. One with the chakra capacity expected of a C-Rank, and one of a B-Rank. Neither was a Sensor Ninja like he, so they would not be able to track him in the same way he was observing them. Regardless, their presence was a major inconvenience.

There’s always a twist in these missions, grumbled the Nukenin in his mind, walking down the passageway with arms still folded behind his back, his coat billowing behind him slightly from the motion.

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PostSubject: Re: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptySun 09 Mar 2014, 9:42 am

He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. Why wouldn’t there be ninja included in the crew? Shinji Uteki could very well have enlisted the skills of some shinobi to act as bodyguards, or assist the crew in other ways. Truthfully, there was no illogicality in why there were other shinobi onboard. In fact, this was a possibility that should have been foreseen by the Nukenin. After all, why else would he be constantly inspecting the chakra signatures of the crew members? In fact, what other reason could there be for the fact that he always scanned his surroundings, if circumstances permitted? Surely, he had adopted this habit so as to single out any shinobi presence in the area? When it came to being careful, Masquerade did not believe there was such a thing as being “too careful”. More often than not, it was more practical to be cautious than not. And right now, though the discovery had caught him surprisingly unawares, it had proved to be a fortunate find. The way it was right now, the Nukenin would know exactly who to look out for, thus lowering the probability of any unwelcomed confrontations.

A deafening gust blew past the Teinei, ruffling his clothes and seeping into his bones with its biting chill. He shuddered visibly, drawing his limbs closer to his body and rubbing his upper arms in a futile attempt to keep himself warm. The night was progressing, and with it, the air temperature was dropping. Being outside at this time was far from pleasant, so Masquerade would pity those of the pirates whose duties kept them on deck. He would pity them, if he was not in a more uncomfortable state as compared to them. The male was perched on a narrow, wooden ledge at the back of the ship, the entirety of his focus engrossed in the act of maintaining his balance. That, and trying to ignore the cold wind that was blowing towards him, and the icy spray that infrequently managed to fly up to douse him. He was lucky that every inch of his body was more or less covered, thus providing him with some semblance of protection from the cold, but it was not much or enough. What little hair still remained on his body after his burn accident was on end, and his scarred, dried skin was plagued with goose bumps. His footing was narrower than one of his feet, the chill was aggravating, and the constant rocking of the vessel made the likelihood of falling off more probable by the minute. Just the rhythmic swaying of the ship made him feel like he was going to be sick, and Masquerade was normally not one to experience seasickness. In other words, he was in a miserable state, and he was no pleased.

No doubt the question was being asked: why was he in such an uncomfortable position in the first place? The simple answer was that it was the best spot he could find to wait out the trip. Quite the claim though it may be, the fact of the matter was that Masquerade had not been able to find any suitable hiding spot within the ship. The crew had been swarming the interior, leaving virtually no place for a stowed-away spy to hide in - or rather, no place where he could conceal himself, and then ensure that he could leave without being detected. So, he had resorted to hiding outside the ship, and since the deck was out of the question, he had found another spot. It had either been this, or… Actually, there had been no other option. This was the best place that Masquerade could find in such a tense situation, and on such short notice.

The only silver lining that this choice included was that absolutely no one would be able to find the Nukenin here. Not unless they had some excuse to climb all the way down the back of the ship’s stern; and if they did, then Masquerade would deserve to get caught, because only the bravest of seaman would bother coming down here. As it was, he was as secluded as was possible whilst still remaining on the ship. At least he would know for certain where the cargo would be taken: he would be able to see the ship’s destination more easily if he was out here than if he had been inside. Plus, he did not have to worry about running into either of the shinobi out here; something he had yet to do so anyway. While navigating the interior of the ship in search of a hiding spot, he had made sure to steer clear of their chakra signatures.

The bowed, hooded head angled up slowly, twisting around on its neck to glance at the surroundings. The ship was slowing down; he could hear the voices on the deck above being raised, as if commands were being shouted out. The chakra of the crew was on the move as well. A loud splash reached his ears as the anchor was dropped.

Looks like we’re here. Unfolding his arms, Masquerade summoned his wings and pushed off from his perch, floating around the back of the ship until he could see around the corner towards the front. His gaze rose up to accommodate the sight of the landmass at which the ship had dropped anchor. The lack of proper lighting made it difficult to perceive much about the landform’s appearance, but he hazarded a guess that it was an island (they had not been travelling long enough to reach any of the other landlocked countries, so it was safe to assume they were still in Mizu no Kuni’s waters). What Masquerade could see on the beach ahead was a line of trees, indicating that plant life was present here. Furthermore, a tall mountain could be seen silhouetted against the star-strewn background. Hovering inches above the crashing waves, Masquerade furrowed his brow thoughtfully as he looked up at the mountain, then the beach, back at the mountain, and towards the edges of the island as they curved away out of sight.

Why does this place look so familiar?


Oh, no. Oh God, no. Not this place again.

Unless Masquerade was mistaken (and he was praying that he was), then he had been to this island before. A displeased scowl formed behind his mask as he turned whilst airborne and flew further away from the ship, and closer to the island. It just had to be this place again.


“You seem on edge. Worried about something?”

The soft, teasing feminine voice reverberated through his skull as he flitted from branch to branch, using both his agility and his wings to take the most efficient and silent path possible. The cover of the foliage growing from the trees provided excellent cover from anyone who would happen to be looking heavenwards; an advantage reinforced by the nocturnal gloom of the hour. No sound seemed to fill the air as the shinobi propelled himself through the growth of lofty vegetation, his feet barely touching their crisscrossing limbs before lifting off; the purple, ghostly wings did not beat or emit any sound as he hopped between branches. As he traversed the arboreal pathway, his head was constantly moving from side to side, alertly examining his vicinity. However, it was not just with an air of precaution that he did this: there was a hint of restlessness in the act, as if the Nukenin was warily on the lookout for something. It was apparent enough that even the Bijuu within him had noticed it.

I’m merely keeping an eye out for anything I’d rather avoid running into, he replied mentally, watchful gaze still flitting over the area. The Shichibi gave a soft snort of humor.

“You mean like a certain pig?”

Shut up, Shichibi, he answered automatically, still focused on the external world. The Shichibi’s ensuing snicker was ignored by the Jinchuuriki.

Many would be assumed to see Masquerade acting so tensely, even if the reason behind his behavior was known. To cut a long story short: the Nukenin had come to this island about a year ago to collect some plant samples for a client. This island, called Tomoe Shima for its coma-like shape, was rumored to have been haunted or possessed by some supernatural force. During the few hours he’d spent on the island, the skeptical Nukenin had not seen any ghosts or demons to give weight to the stories, but he had experienced a number of bizarre events that had left him wondering whether there was more to this place than it seemed. He had climbed a mountain that had been doing a very good job at trying to throw him off - almost intentionally so. He’d visited an underground spring, with water that erupted into boiling geysers in a physics-defying manner, and that had unarguably been attempting to prevent him from taking the vines growing down there. And lastly, he had faced a fearsome beast of a boar that had actually tried to kill him for stealing some of the mushrooms it had been eating. This, incidentally, was the “certain pig” that the Shichibi had been speaking of - the pig that had actually chased him all over the island in an attempt to retrieve its lunch.

He had escaped the island with the mission completed, but the unpleasant experience had been enough for him to never want to visit the place again. Unfortunately, it seemed that life was not willing to comply with that wish. Of all the islands in the world, it had to be this one. A coincidence like this would make such a trite plot twist in a story.

Traumatizing memories aside, though, Masquerade could see the logic in using a place as shunned as this as a base for illegal activities. By the looks of it, Shinji Uteki’s shipping and distribution operations were situated here; since it was extremely rare for anyone to come all the way out here, the location offered the seclusion and security that was desired for a venture as legally risky as this. Masquerade looked down from his elevated perch at the group trudging along on the forest floor below. Dozens of men were walking in a single file, carrying the numerous boxes of substance in their arms. The Nukenin had been following them for the past ten minutes, having joined up with the group after coming onshore. He had made sure to keep a safe distance between himself and his quarry so as to make it less likely for him to be spotted by a casual glance, or even a thorough one. From his position, he could not see the front of the procession, and the back was just out of his visual range – but not his sensory range. He could still sense the majority of the seaman, so even if he could not see them, he knew exactly where each of them was. With the way things were going, they would lead him straight to their base, and they would be none the wiser of doing so. After that, it would not be long before he could send word back to his employer, and leave this goddamned island.

But, it was not smooth sailing just yet. As mentioned before, there were two ninja amidst the group of pirates, and they were both walking with the cargo-carrying crew. These two were at the very back of the group, probably to watch the rear. This meant that Masquerade had to be extra careful while tailing his targets, for the ninja ought to be able to spot him with less difficulty than the sailors - though, they had yet to do so, or show any signs of having done so.

On the plus side, Masquerade had at last gotten a look at his potential adversaries. Sort of. One of them, the B-Rank, was shrouded in a loose, billowing gray cloak with a raised hood, leaving little of his appearance to be gauged; particularly since he had had his back turned to Masquerade the entire time. An inconvenient coincidence, for sure. The one thing he had determined for certain was that this was a male, judging by the quality of his gruff, aggressive voice. Oh yes, and he went by the name “Kegawa”; this being the name his partner had addressed him with.

On the subject of his partner, the C-Rank was a kunoichi, one that was a few years younger and a few inches shorter than Masquerade. She was walking further ahead than Kegawa, slipping out of the Jinchuuriki visual range more often than the latter. Unlike her associate, she was not clad in any obscuring cloak or hood, allowing the scrutinizing Nukenin to discern more of her physical traits than he could for her partner. The only physical trait of hers that the masked shinobi felt was worth mentioning was her head of short, vibrant magenta hair; it was almost eye-wateringly bright, even in the dimness of the forest. Her name, he had not caught, but it did not matter. She was the lower-ranked of the two, and though Masquerade was not one to underestimate his opponent, he was willing to prioritize them based on how dangerous they could be. In that regard, it would not be unwise to assume that the higher-ranked shinobi was the one to be more watchful of.

These were the observations that Masquerade had made by examining the girl. In particular, there was the fact that the Takigakure forehead protector sewn onto her right shoulder had a slash through the inverted, arrow-shaped engraving. In other words, this kunoichi and her partner were both Nukenin, which did not really surprise Masquerade. After all, who had ever heard of Village Ninja aiding in the trafficking of drugs?

Tch. What now?

The leaping shinobi halted atop a branch, peering through a gap in the leaves at the other Teinei. He had come to a stop, his back still turned to the masked one. His accomplice was continuing ahead, apparently unaware that he had ceased walking. As the girl vanished into the collection of trees ahead, the shrouded Nukenin stood his ground. Masquerade titled his head puzzlingly, wondering what had elicited this stop. Or rather, he was more concerned with how long this Kegawa person was going to stay stopped. The Jinchuuriki could just go around Kegawa and leave him behind, but he would rather continue forward while having both shinobi in his sights. Just to ease his paranoia. On the other hand, he did not have time to waste waiting for this cloaked man to keep moving, since the longer Masquerade waited, the further his actual target would get.

Just as Masquerade was about to turn and make his way around the stationary shinobi, the latter made a move. With a brief widening of hidden eyes in surprise, Masquerade tilted his head to the side to avoid the kunai that had been abruptly thrown at him. The metal projectile had sailed from Kegawa’s hand as he had spun around and flung it in Masquerade’s exact direction; the evaded knife was now embedded in a branch above the masked Nukenin’s head. Masquerade remained in his position, eyes narrowed in seriousness as he eyed the other criminal. The accuracy of the throw left no doubt whatsoever: his adversary knew where he was.

Raising his shadowed face in Masquerade’s direction, the hooded man barked up to Masquerade loudly, “You can stop hiding now. I know you’re there. I can smell you.”

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PostSubject: Re: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptyMon 10 Mar 2014, 1:01 am

Did he just say he could “smell me”?

“That’s weird. I mean, didn’t you just shower this morning? You shouldn’t stink that much.”

The Jinchuuriki and the Bijuu’s ill-timed conversation was interrupted as Kegawa reached to undo the fastening on his cloak, letting the gray garment fall to the earth around him. Obviously, removing the item allowed more of his appearance to be examined, and this was exactly what the habitually observant Masquerade did. The male’s height was close to Masquerade’s, though his physique was more toned and muscular than that of the lean Jinchuuriki. A blue-and-white-striped shirt covered his torso, while a pair of dark cargo pants were on his legs. Other accessories included a pair of blue ninja sandals, a single blue bracer on his right forearm, a scratched Konohagakure forehead on his right bicep, and a three-foot long metal pipe secured to his hip. Wild, spiky hair of a rich brown color grew from his scalp, coupling with his sharp eyebrows and narrow eyes to give him an almost feral look. Beneath each of his black eyes, running along his jawline, was a fang-shaped, red mark; one on either side of his face. The marking looked very familiar to Masquerade, and it took a few moments for enlightenment to catch up with him.

Ohhhh… So that’s how he found me. He’s from that dog-taming clan from Konohagakure. Inu… Inu… Inu… Inusaki? No, that’s not right...

“Kegawa-kun? What’s wrong?”

The kunoichi was back. She hurried to Kegawa, youthful face turned to him in confusion. Kegawa did not look back at her, instead keeping his attention fixed on the tree in which Masquerade was “hiding”. Once again, he called out to the hidden Jinchuuriki. “I could smell you back on the ship, you know. I figured you were one of Ichinose’s men, since your scent vanished after his ship left. But I picked up your odor again when we came on the island, and I could tell you were following us for the last few minutes. So stop wasting my time, and get your ass out here.” He spoke confidently and aggressively, and when his little speech came to an end, he grabbed the pole at his hip and held it readily in his left hand. His intent was clear: this action pretty much declared that he was looking for a fight - though, that had been obvious the moment he had removed his cloak.

Tch. Troublesome dog breeder. This was unfortunate, indeed. He’d been detected, and by the last pair of people that he had hoped to be. Combat was inevitable at this point. He knew he would not be able to sneak past the two Nukenin at this point; not when one of them had a nose that could outmatch Masquerade’s own chakra-sensing capabilities. The Jinchuuriki could erase or reduce the amount of sound he generated, but he could not do anything about his scent. That, annoyingly, was what made this clan of canine-focused shinobi such valued trackers. But that was beside the point: since stealth was all but useless at this point, there was only one course of action available. One that the masked Nukenin would have preferred to avoid entirely.

Leaves ruffled faintly as a dark figure dropped from the treetops and landed softly on the forest floor in a frog-like crouch. He raised his hooded head slowly to meet the gaze of the two Nukenin before him; the taller, older male was smirking confidently, while the more timid-looking female looked startled. At this point, Masquerade felt he should perhaps say something, but a part of him thought he could derive some amusement by holding his tongue for a little longer. After all, he had just appeared in a rather dramatic and startling manner; a silent demeanor would add an enigmatic air to his presence, particularly when coupled with his masked, hooded appearance.

Fanged canines glinted as Kegawa grinned at the crouched Masquerade, but his next words were directed to the unsettled kunoichi at his shoulder. “Niwa. You go on ahead. I’ll take care of this.” The authoritative statement was about to be met with protest, but the succeeding remark cut off any reply. “If the others find out that we’ve been followed, it’ll throw a wrench into our mission, and we’ll fall behind the schedule. We can’t afford to miss this shipment, so they need to be able to focus only on the job at hand. Continue on with the crew, and make sure they don’t figure out that anything’s wrong. I’ll join up with you guys once I’ve dealt with this stalker.” The kunoichi, now identified as “Niwa”, looked like she was going to argue, if the worried look she cast between the two male shinobi was any indication. However, she ended up replying with an obedient nod and a wish of good luck. As Niwa would retreat in the direction that the pirates had gone, Kegawa would return his full attention to Masquerade, and then introduce himself. “Inuzuka Kegawa. But I’m sure you’ve figured that out, by now.”

Inuzuka! That was it! Yes…

Kegawa waited, as if expecting Masquerade to offer his name in kind. The purple shinobi did not, continuing his apparent vow of silence. Rather than being put off by the other Nukenin’s silence, the Inuzuka smirked conceitedly and shrugged off-handedly. “You know, I’ve smelled a lot of people in my life, but I gotta say: I’ve never met someone who reeks as much as you do.”

The verbal jab did not seem to anger Masquerade, though the smiling mask made it hard to tell what he was thinking anyway. Nevertheless, he did rise to his feet at this point, spreading his arms apart and nonchalantly offering a vocal answer. “Well, I do make a point to bathe daily in my own excrement.”


“The fuck, man. That’s just gross. Seriously, why would you even say something like that? Fucking weirdo.”

The smile on Masquerade’s mask seemed to widen slightly as he titled his head lower a bit, before inching it from side to side; as if searching for something. “Speaking of peculiarities… If you’re an Inuzuka, then where’s your canine friend? Or should I be expecting some kind of surprise attack?” The query had been placed matter-of-factly, in spite of the humor with which it was delivered. It was a legit inquiry, after all: the Inuzuka were known to always be accompanied by a canine companion. To see this Inuzuka without one was a rarity, even if Masquerade had never before met someone from his clan. Why, the only reason the Jinchuuriki knew of the clan was because of how renowned it was; that, and he recalled his teacher mentioning the clan of dog-users several times. The point was, there was always some species of canine in the presence of an Inuzuka, so the fact that one could not be seen right now was an issue to be addressed. Having asked his question, Masquerade expected the Inuzuka to snub him, or perhaps toss another insulting remark; he did not expect him to glower intensely at the question.

“I don’t need some mutt helping me.”

Masquerade blinked, not expecting the venom with which the word “mutt” had been used. Interesting… Kegawa sounded almost… contemptuous. Did he not actually have a dog of some sort? Unprecedented. “An Inuzuka without a familiar? That’s like a Senju that can’t use Mokuton. In other words: a disgrace to his clan.” Kegawa grimaced at the derisive tone. The irony of Masquerade’s word were lost on him, however. The comment about a Senju that could not use Mokuton sounded strange coming from Masquerade, since his father had been a Senju. And he, Masquerade, had not inherited his father’s Kekkei Genkai - something which he was well aware of. In fact, he had not even inherited his Uzumaki mother’s bloodline trait either (though, he knew nothing about the maternal side of his family). If anyone could be called a disgrace to their clan, it would be Masquerade. Kegawa, however, had no knowledge of Masquerade’s heritage, so he could not call the Nukenin out on his words. As a matter of fact, the brunette did not utter a word in reaction to Masquerade’s quip. If the Inuzuka had come up with a worthwhile retort, he did not share it with the other. He kept his silence, continuing to glare at the masked Nukenin. From the looks of it, the pre-battle banter appeared to have reached its conclusion, since the two shinobi were now simply standing in place, eyeing each other alertly over the dozen meter gap. For the moment, both were still, but their immobility would undoubtedly not last long. And it didn’t.

“Katon • Endan!”

“Raiton • Raidama.”

Black-gloved fingers flew through a set of handseals, while a single bared hand executed another series of seals with equal effort. A jet of orange-yellow flames erupted from the mouth of the latter handseal user, while a crackling sphere of electricity shot forth from the former’s direction. Both attacks collided midway, the stream of fire merging with the ball of lightning to create a small of burst of both elements. Neither shinobi was paying any mind to the failed attacks, though. The Inuzuka had dashed around the mix of fire and electricity to charge directly at the purple-clad shinobi. A quick set of handseals from Masquerade caused an array of spikes to erupt from the ground between the two; Kegawa skid to a halt to avoid smashing into the pointed protrusions, but it was only a temporary setback. Not a second after blocking his opponent’s path, Masquerade was forced to duck as something long and thin punched through the spiked defense, shattering the flimsy stone and nearly smashing into the Jinchuuriki’s face. Looking up, he would be greeted with the sight of Kegawa jumping over the broken spikes, face alive with bloodlust. The metal pipe in his hand, originally three feet in length, had extended in size to over ten; this was what had smashed through the spikes and almost nailed Masquerade squarely in the face.

As Kegawa sailed towards the masked Nukenin, the pipe returned to its normal size as he swiped it horizontally through the air. Masquerade had just enough time to rise to his full height and evade the pipe as it was swung at him again. And again. And again. The Inuzuka had was within striking range of the Jinchuuriki, and refused to give him any breathing room - or time to breathe. The masked one’s evasive skills were all that allowed him to avoid having the metal pipe make contact with him.  That, and he had fought his fair share of close-range combatants who resorted to relentless attacks like these. He’d gotten enough practice to know how to dodge without wasting too much energy; minimal movement was one fundamental here.

A gloved right hand snapped forwards to grab the end of the pipe as it missed for the fourth time, and held it in place long enough to allow the other arm to thrust itself as a fist at the brown-haired man’s face. The strike proved too slow, or the target too fast; either way, the punch missed Kegawa’s left ear by a hair when he jerked his head out of the way. A wild grin flashed across his feral features at the same time, and a sudden rippling of air appeared around his weapon. The Fuuton chakra being channeled into the weapon transferred into Masquerade, causing small cuts to rip open all over his right arm and sleeve; the wounds yielded a hiss of pain from the lacerated Nukenin. The momentary display of discomfort gave Kegawa the chance he needed to leap into the air and twirl his body around to slam both feet into Masquerade’s chest. The action knocked the unsuspecting shinobi backwards, making him roll messily across the ground to a laying position on his back. Masquerade grunted in pain, his body still stinging from the paper-thin cuts, and his chest thumping from the force of the Inuzuka’s kick.

A battle-crazed cackle reached Masquerade at the same moment he saw Kegawa in the air above, weapon raised and ready to slam down on Masquerade as he came flying down at him. The masked Teinei clicked his tongue in irritation and executed a simple jutsu, sinking into the earth instantly. The Iniuzuka Teinei struck nothing but soft earth upon landing, and he certainly looked displeased by this fact. However, rather than despairing, he instead straightened up and sniffed the air around him, head turning from side to side. His face whipped in one direction, and a smirk spread onto his face as he lifted the pipe high into the air; the weapon came swinging down to earth, extending in length simultaneously to strike, not the ground at Kegawa’s feet, but a spot several feet away from him. The pipe’s end was only a few feet above the soil when Masquerade’s head popped out from underground; the masked one would spot the approaching the strike and retreat back into the ground, thus resulting in another miss. But again, Kegawa did not despair, for he immediately swung his lengthened weapon over to another nearby spot, where the same sequence of events took place: Masquerade surfaced, saw the pipe coming his way, and then dug back to safety. This process then repeated itself for a third time. And then a fourth.

It was like some twisted game of whack-a-mole, only more ridiculous to watch.

“Hahah! Come on! Are we fighting, or playing a game?” From Kegawa’s expression, one could presume that he did see this as nothing more than a game. Certainly, there were more practical strategies he could rely on to get Masquerade rather than trying to whack the latter whenever he tried to surface. This plan was too silly and fruitless for it to be even considered serious. Take into account that Kegawa was constantly moving to keep Masquerade within range of his extended weapon, and it became even more obvious just how laid-back an attitude he had adopted for this battle. But, as any seasoned fighter could attest, not taking a battle seriously lead to grave mistakes being made, and this case was no exception.

Masquerade would emerge from the ground once more, this time actually leaping into the air rather than climbing out. As he rose upwards into the air, Kegawa’s pipe came flying at his chest from straight ahead. Being airborne, Masquerade had limited options when it came to dodging the attack; or so his adversary might think. The Inuzuka was surely surprised when the wings emerged from Masquerade’s back, allowing him to rotate his body in an aerial cartwheel and spin his body out of the approaching pipe’s path. The rod’s tip would shoot passed Masquerade, missing him completely - but that was not the end of the trick. In the midst of his aerial cartwheel, Masquerade’s hands came together to yet again form more handseals. By the time he had turned a hundred-and-eighty degrees, his left hand was coated in a long, vaporous aura of purple chakra. Using the momentum provided by his rotational motion, Masquerade swung his arm up, using the chakra blade to cleanly slice through the metal pipe. The separated end of the weapon fell to the earth, while the other half took a moment to shrink back to a foot-long length.

As expected, the whole maneuver flabbergasted the brunette Nukenin. He gaped for a moment, probably feeling like a fool. Whatever the case, his lapse of alertness was taken advantage of by Masquerade. Before even hitting the ground, Masquerade was already forming the seals for his next jutsu, and by the time Kegawa noticed, it was too late. The Inuzuka did not expect the five earthen tentacles to burst from the soil beneath him, thus making his last-minute, instinctive sidestep unsuccessful. Arms, legs, and chest: one tentacle held onto each limb, while the fifth one secured the brunette’s torso. Kegawa struggled, dropping his shortened weapon and trying to break free of his bindings. But it was to no avail. He lacked the strength to break the thick, sturdy tendrils. He could not move, and that was just what the masked shinobi had been aiming for. Masquerade had not waited long, lest he miss his chance: once Kegawa had been caught, he dashed towards him, upper torso bent forward to streamline himself. His left hand had snatched up the part of the Kegawa’s weapon that he had cut off, the diagonal cut having given the weapon a nice, pointed edge now. Charging at the bound Inuzuka with a sharp weapon in his hand, one did not have to think hard to decipher Masquerade’s intent. The struggling Kegawa realized what was happening, and he gave a roar of anger at the sight.

“Gouryuuka no Jutsu!” he exclaimed, one hand managing to work through the handseals despite his whole body being restrained; a dragon-like fireball came flying towards Masquerade, emitted from the Inuzuka’s mouth. The Jinchuuriki came to an abrupt halt to dive out of the way of the oncoming fireball; however, the second and third fireballs, which he noticed at the termination of his diving roll, were not dodged as fruitfully. The fiery dragon heads came close enough to singe the left side of his body with their heat, and managed to set some fabric alight in addition. The small tongues of flames on his sleeve and coat hems were doused as he rolled over the soft earth at the end of his second evade. Kneeling on one knee, the Nukenin growled in a mix of pain and anger, his masked visage whipping around to face Kegawa, who busy forming another set of handseals with one hand. Seeing this, the Jinchuuriki narrowed his eyes, swinging the arm holding the pipe forwards to toss the pointed item at his target’s head.

“Juha: Shou!” Blades of wind launched out from one of Kegawa’s hands as he shouted these words. Rather than flying at Masquerade, the blades sliced through the earthen tentacles holding the caster in place. Freed, the brunette jerked out of the way of the projectile thrown by his adversary. The pointed pipe nicked his ear and left a shallow cut across his face as he flew by, but otherwise missed completely. Masquerade clenched his teeth in annoyance as a frowning Kegawa touched the rip in his outer ear. The Inuzuka’s black-eyed gaze then shifted to what remained of his damaged weapon, lying at his sandaled feet. He bent down and picked it up, eyeing it sourly before glaring up at Masquerade. The Nukenin’s mask made it impossible to discern what expression he held, so it would have to be assumed that the smile accurately represented his thoughts at this time.

The two Nukenin watched each other, silent save for their own heavy breathing. Exactly who had the upper hand at this point was open to interpretation. The ever-pessimistic Masquerade would be more willing to say that Kegawa’s chances of winning were better than losing. Then again, he would not agree that he was about to keel over. He spread his feet apart, steadying his footing and preparing for further combat. There was no time for bantering or contemplating now. The fight had gone on long enough as it was. He needed to wrap this up quickly, so he could get on with the mission. Not to mention, he had to deal with the fact that these two shinobi had become wise of his presence.


Inuzuka Kegawa:

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PostSubject: Re: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptyTue 11 Mar 2014, 3:50 am

Leaves suddenly ruffled from a nearby brush. Two pairs of eyes whipped round to look in that direction. The two tensed shinobi watched as something stepped out of the leafy growth and into the open. It was a deer. A doe. The four-legged animal calmly skipped forward with a gentle, unhurried gait. She came to a stop directly in between Masquerade and Kegawa, and seemed to completely ignore their presence as she lowered her head to begin grazing. A sudden silence saturated the air as both Nukenin stared at the deer, then at each other, and back at the deer. Masquerade blinked unseeingly behind his mask. Kegawa’s eyebrow twitched in annoyance. Needless to say, this was a very anticlimactic twist. And Kegawa, in particular, did not seem very pleased by it.

“Get the hell out of here, you stupid goat!” he snapped, and tossed the pipe in his hand at the deer. It was a lazy throw, not one that was blindingly fast or impossible to dodge. The doe could easily move out of the spinning projectile’s path, and it certainly should have, given how jumpy an animal with as many predators as a deer could be. The deer should have run away, but it didn’t - and consequently, the pointed edge of the pipe lodged itself into the side of the deer’s neck. A pitiful moan of pain bubbled up from her wounded throat. Her knees buckled, and she collapsed to the forest floor on her side. The pipe remained embedded in her throat, reducing the amount of blood that was seeping out of the animal’s throat, but the damage had been done. The poor animal kicked its legs a few times, flailing pitifully for a few moments, before it suddenly went still and quiet. Kegawa grinned malevolently, while Masquerade cocked his head to the side. He was about to voice his opinion about that reaction might have been a bit unnecessary, but stopped when he heard a chorus of low growls reach his ears. Kegawa, too, noticed the sounds, his malicious expression swapping with a puzzled one as he and the other Nukenin looked to their right. From the same brush where the deer had come from, a number of luminous, pupil-less eyes were watching them unblinkingly. Slowly, the owners of the eyes stepped out of the bushes.

Wolves. They were wolves. An entire pack of them, consisting of at least fifteen that Masquerade could see. They were noticeably larger than an average wolf, each canine being almost five feet tall at its shoulders. A coat of thick, ebony fur covered their lean forms - fur so dark as to make them almost indistinguishable from the shadowy backdrop. The fanged teeth in their snouts were thin and spindly, bared at the pair of humans. The blue eyes lacked pupils, glowing like baseball-sized light bulbs in the darkness; they were so bright, in fact, that the wolves’ eyes were completely obscured by the light. This same luminous aura surrounded their mouths, giving their tongues and gums the same blue hue. A trail of smoke-like vapor was emanating from the wolves’ glowing eyes, as well as from their mouths. Even their breath seemed to be tainted with the blue vapor. All in all, they carried with them a mystical air; and unearthly one even. The lack of any pupils in the crowd of eyes did not make it any harder to tell that they were all watching the two humans intently. The relentless growling issuing from the pack further conveyed their hostile intentions. The nonplussed Masquerade took a step back as the wolves made themselves visible, unsure how to respond to this. The harmony of snarls amplified in volume when more wolves appeared, this time from behind Masquerade and Kegawa. The masked Nukenin snapped his gaze around to see the canines appearing from all directions, with the obvious intent to surround the humans.

He cast a glance towards Kegawa, wondering if these wolves were his. After all, the Nukenin was an Inuzuka. Despite the animosity with which he had referred to dogs earlier, he might very well be the one who had called these animals forth. These wolves could be his trump card or something. That was what Masquerade would have said, if he did not see the same confusion he felt mirrored on Kegawa’s face. The Inuzuka was just as befuddled by the pack’s arrival as Masquerade. Only, he appeared even more unnerved than the Jinchuuriki, repeatedly turning his head around to keep the canines in sight. It was clear, then, that Kegawa was not responsible for the wolf pack’s appearance. Which did not really make the situation any better. In fact, if his opponent had been the one controlling the creatures, than Masquerade might have been able to defeat them by taking out their head (that is, the Inuzuka). Instead, he would have to resort to other strategies to deal with this new mess he was in. Frowning behind his mask, Masquerade readied himself as the wolves slowly came closer, fanged teeth bared and saliva dripping out of their blunt snouts. His body tensed for the inevitable attack as the pack closed in… but the wolves walked right by him, ignoring him entirely.

Stance relaxing from bewilderment, the Nukenin turned around to watch the wolves prowl away from him, and towards Kegawa. The Inuzuka saw this, and realized at the same time as Masquerade that the pack was only targeting him. Masquerade watched wordlessly as panic spread across Kegawa’s face, and the Inuzuka tried to back away from the mammals. But he was already surrounded, and could not simply run away. While the brunette shouted at the animals to stay back, Masquerade stood his ground, trying to comprehend what exactly was happening, and why. His sights switched from the cornered Nukenin to the deer lying dead on the forest floor, and a thought suddenly came to him. And the more he dwelled on that thought, the more likely it seemed. Based on his own experiences, Masquerade felt his assumptions was correct. He looked back at Kegawa, who was seemed oddly frightened by this issue. He appeared to be positively terrified by the approaching wolves, and that was probably why he had not tried to attack them in an attempt to defend himself.

“You - you mongrels! Get away from me!” At last, Kegawa finally racked up the courage and sense to do something. Masquerade watched as his hand dug into his weapons pouch, and he launched a trio of kunai towards the closest wolves. And that was when the two shinobi were treated to another surprise. In a display of sentience, the targeted wolves swiped their forepaws across the air, knocking the kunai away with their claws; at the same time, their brethren lunged in synchrony at the vulnerable shinobi. The canines slammed into Kegawa’s body, knocking him to the ground and piling on top of him. Their snarls made his yells harder to hear, but they could not be missed. The Inuzuka kicked the wolves off of himself, rising to his feet, but he was still cornered and under attack. The wolves continued to mercilessly lunge at him, biting and clawing at him, soon drawing blood. Terror was etched across every inch of Kegawa’s face as it became apparent just how fast and vicious these wolves were, and how hard it was for him to actually attack them or defend hismelf. None of his attacks were landing, while all of theirs were finding their mark without fail. As he was knocked to the ground once again, trying to hold back a wolf’s mouth that was inches from his own neck, the Inuzuka turned a face that was twisted in dread to Masquerade. The masked Nukenin had been standing several feet away, wordlessly watching the scene unfold.

In a choked, struggling voice, Kegawa called pleadingly to the masked shinobi, “Help me! Please!”

Masquerade remained silent, tilting his head forward fractionally, as if thinking.


He turned around and broke into a run, heading away from Kegawa and in the direction where the pirates had gone. Kegawa’s flurry of curses were cut short by the growls of the wolves. Even after Masquerade was well out of sight of the commotion, he could still hear the pack’s snarling and Kegawa’s screams of pain. The masked Nukenin did not stop or look back, and his pace did not falter for even a second; he continuing to race through the forest at breakneck speed, upper torso bent forward to reduce the resistance of air, arms stretched out behind him and hooded head parallel to his spine. Soon enough, the disturbing sounds from behind died down, replaced with the stillness of the quiet forest. A comparatively eerie, uncomfortable stillness.

“You’re really just going to leave him behind? You’re not going to help him?”

The Shichibi sounded genuinely confused as she asked this. Masquerade did not hesitate when answering, or alter the speed of his stride. “No. Those wolves are attacking him because he killed their meal. Therefore, he is the replacement course.” It did not seem that wild a theory to Masquerade. He had deduced that the pack had been hunting the deer, and Kegawa had been the one to rob them off their dinner. Thus, he had angered the pack. Now, when one took into consideration how peculiar this island was, and how oddly the creatures that inhabited it could be, it was no surprise that the wolves would seek retribution upon the human that had ruined their meal; additionally, it explained how the creatures seemingly possessed the intellect required to overpower a sentient, skilled shinobi. Masquerade knew firsthand how unpredictable this island could be, and animals that could think on a level that was almost human did not seem that out-of-place to him.

“You usually wouldn’t care for that. Normally, you wouldn’t leave anyone to such a cruel fate, even if it was the enemy.”

“Those wolves have labelled him as their enemy. If I help their enemy, then they will attack me as well. And I will not antagonize this island again, or anything that lives on it.”

“Even if helping him is the right thing to do?”

“In this case, it is more sensible to do the wrong thing, than to risk my life doing the right thing.”

“Hmmm. Interesting of you to say that, Kai. Okay, then; carry on.”

The Nukenin did not question the Shichibi as to what she meant, or even make a comment about how he would “carry on” without her permission. The reason for this was because he had other things to focus on presently. Masquerade slowed down to a stop, looking ahead for a few silent seconds, before directing his attention to the treetops overhead. The Teinei leaped up onto a low-hanging branch, pulling himself up and then climbing up higher using the other branches above. Once he was about ten meters high from the forest floor, he perched on the branch like a bird and proceeded to wait patiently. His view of the ground was blocked by the leaves all around him, but he was not worried. He did not have to rely on his eyes. Face lowered to point at the leaves below, he soundlessly balanced on the tree limb, counting the seconds in his mind as they went by. Roughly five counts later, he held his breath, and jumped down from the branch. He fell through the leaves like a ghost, and landed feet-first, not on the earthen floor, but on something much more soft and “organic”.

The magenta-haired kunoichi grunted as the Nukenin landed on top of her, knocking her flat on her front. Before she knew it, the masked male had pinned her to the ground, one hand clasped around one of her wrists to lock the arm behind her back, while the other hand was gripping the back of her head, keeping it down on the dirt. His right knee was digging into the base of her spine, and the foot of his left leg was grinding her second hand into the ground. The girl looked over her shoulder angrily, glaring at Masquerade through her peripherals. “Let go of me, you fucking creeper!” She tried to break free of his grip, but despite his thinner frame, Masquerade proved to be physically stronger of the two. He applied more pressure to the spidery hand clasped around the girl’s skull, pressing it more firmly against the soil. With the smiling mask and general air of mysteriousness, coupled with the manner in which he had pinned the female, Masquerade certainly did seem like some kind of perverted stalker. Not that he’d mind if he was made aware of that fact. Indeed, he would get such a good laugh if someone said that to him.

Over the sounds of his captive’s struggling whispery, Masquerade’s high, scratchy wheeze of a voice hissed authoritatively to the kunoichi named Niwa. “Tell me where the pirates took the drugs.” It was a simple, straightforward demand. Niwa turned her head with difficulty to look up at Masquerade, her frown as intense as the color of her hair.

“Tch! Go fuck yourself. Like I’d ever tell a cocksucker like you.”

My, what an urbane vocabulary, Masquerade noted mentally, though it was more with amusement than anger. Instead of reacting to the girl’s insults, he leaned his head a little closer to hers and spoke in a lower tone. “Oh, you will provide me with a proper answer, my dear. I will keep your here until I have gotten what I need. And if that happens, you won’t be able to save your partner from his inevitable fate.” As he expected, Niwa’s dark eyes widened in worry at his words. The male’s unseen smirk widened triumphantly at the reaction. Since Kegawa had explicitly told Niwa to leave the fighting to him, the kunoichi should not have been heading in the direction where the battle had been occurring. She had clearly chosen to disobey her partner’s orders, and had been on her way to help him. Sadly for her, Masquerade had sensed her approaching, and that had given him the idea of using her to acquire some much-needed information. Recall that he had no idea where the pirates had gone after he had been discovered by Kegawa. Rather than wandering the island looking for them, he could pry the information out from this kunoichi instead.

“You piece of shit! What happened to Kegawa-kun?! What did you do to him?!” Niwa snapped at the Jinchuuriki, fighting to free herself. The efforts were futile, and Masquerade did not grace her with an answer. His silence was a meaningful enough response for Niwa, who stopped her thrashing to bite her lower lip anxiously; dark gray eyes shifted from side to side in uncertainty, a sign of a troubled mindset. Masquerade did not rush her or pester her further, coolly waiting. There was only one direction this whole situation would go, so it came as no surprise when Niwa submitted and answered Masquerade inquiry. She jerked her head best as she could while it was restrained in the direction behind Masquerade, speaking in a hollow, defeated manner. “About fifty yards from here, there’s a path that leads to a waterfall. You’ll find a tunnel behind some rocks next to the waterfall there. That’s where the Raisins were taken.”

He smirked in victory. “Much appreciated.” He gently released the girl and rose to his feet, turning around to run off in the specified direction. Before he broke out into his run, he muttered to the kunoichi pushing herself to her feet: “You’ll find Inuzuka Kegawa where you left him - what remains of him, that is.” He did not bother to look at the expression dread that overtook Niwa’s features, merely kicking forward from the ground and dashing forth in the same streamlined stance as before. He was positive that the female would find her male associate without issue. Whether she found him intact… well, that was another matter entirely.

Masquerade was confident that there was no way the Inuzuka would be able to defeat the wolves. Not because they were stronger than him, or because he was too scared of them; victory was impossible since the canines had the advantage of the home field. The wolves would not fall to Kegawa, no matter how irrational or illogical a maneuver they had to pull. It was unlikely that the island would not let Kegawa overcome the pack’s wrath. His only options would be to fall to the pack, or successfully flee the island. Even if he chose the latter, he would have his work cut out in trying to outrun the pack’s fury. Why was Masquerade so sure of this? Because he had faced a similar situation when being assaulted by the boar. Only by leaving Tomoe Shima had he been able to truly escape the pig’s bloodlust. In any case, he would not have to worry about any further interference from Inuzuka Kegawa. And if that kunoichi tried to help him, the wolves would turn on her as well, which would result in her sharing her partner’s unavoidable fate too.

The optimum outcome, the Nukenin remarked, whether in delight or regret could not be said. Now was not the time to dwell on the happenings he had left behind. He was nearing his destination now; the unmistakable sound of falling water reached his ears, prompting a gradual transition from a sprint into a walk. Soon enough, he was emerging from the bushes to the sight of a cliff face, from the top of which fell the stream of water. Stepping closer to the pool at the base of the admittedly majestic waterfall, Masquerade looked around carefully. His gaze hung onto the pile of boulders to his left, a few yards from the bank of the water body. Approaching the collection of stone to run a hand over it in scrutiny, he did not have to search long to find a gap in between the rocks that was big enough for a human or two to pass through. After peering down into the opening and seeing nothing but darkness, he cautiously stepped into the gap and into the tunnel that opened up beyond. He could hear a variety of noises travelling up to him from the depths of the tunnel; without further delay, he made his way towards the cacophonic goal.

Special Characteristics Used:

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PostSubject: Re: Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] Mission: Pirates and Ships and Drugs... Oh My! [Private] EmptyTue 11 Mar 2014, 3:54 am

“Mind sharing one of those?”

Nanase Fugaku literally jumped a foot into the air in his seat, spilling the cup of steaming tea in his hand all over his clothes; the dango in his hand flew into the air, and Masquerade calmly caught the desert with a free hand, but did not actually eat it. He dropped down from the ledge behind the bench on which Fugaku had been seated, holding out the stick of sweets for the older man to take. Fugaku was preoccupied in swearing and wiping the hot liquid of the front of his clothes; when he was done, he snatched the sweets back, glaring angrily at Masquerade and snapping at him to “stop doing that”. The smile on the Nukenin’s mask was enough of an indicator of the amused look he was no doubt giving the cursing man. For some reason, Masquerade always managed to derive entertainment whenever people insulted. He supposed he found it satisfying to know that he could get under someone’s skin enough to make them wish ill of him.

“Here.” Masquerade lazily tossed the scroll in his right hand at the unsuspecting Fugaku, who fumbled and almost dropped it. “Everything that needs to be known about Shinji Uteki’s base can be found in that scroll. I tried to remain as detailed as possible whilst keeping it concise; there is still more to be discovered and documented, but for now, the location and fundamentals of the operation have been listed. Further reconnaissance shall have to be relied upon to learn all that there is to know.” He said as much, but the fact was that Masquerade was not obligated to bring any information beyond the location of Uteki’s base of operations. He was supposed to find the base, and then Hibiki’s group would use that discovery to plan their next move. Already, he had supplied them with more data than was expected or required.

The crevices on Fugaku’s wrinkled forehead deepened as he frowned thoughtfully, looking up from the scroll in his hand and up at Masquerade. He waved the item questioningly at the Nukenin, more in a wondering manner than a rude one. “Hold on. I gave you a scroll with some kinda gadget in it, remember? You were supposed to use that to send us a message when you found their base. What gives? Why write that down in a scroll, and come all the way back here to give it to me in person? You could’ve just sent it with the gizmo I gave you; actually, you should have just used that. What happened, kid?”

Masquerade averted his gaze from Fugaku’s inquiring one, a gesture that implied at either embarrassment or irritation, or perhaps both. “I lost it. There were a few… complications.” By “complications”, he was referring to his skirmish with Kegawa; and by “lost it”, he meant that the scroll in which the item had been sealed had been damaged beyond repair during said skirmish. This little discovery had been made when Masquerade had taken out the scroll from his pouch and opened, whereupon he had seen the burn on the paper where the Fuuinjutsu seal had been. The subsequent attempts to unseal the communication item had been ineffectual, only resulting in a waste of chakra. Thus, Masquerade had “borrowed” a scroll and pen from the drug base, and had jotted down as much vital information as he could onto the small roll of paper. It had helped that Masquerade’s handwriting was small and narrow - probably too small and narrow. Fugaku would probably need a magnifying glass to read the millimeter-tall lines of text the Nukenin had scribbled down. Masquerade recalled his elderly teacher, Sakamoto, always complaining that he wrote so minutely that even an ant wouldn’t be able to read it.

“Hmm. Well, I guess it can’t be helped. So long as you got Yoshino-dono the info he needs, then it’s fine.” He sat down on his bench and unfurled the scroll. He frowned, curling his upper lip back in frustration. “Seriously? How is it even possible to write this small?” He reached into his coat, pulling out a pair of reading glasses. Even after sliding them onto his nose, he still had to hold the document inches from his aged face and squint his icy-gray eyes to be able to read the words. Grumbling about how he was “getting old”, the man silently read through the data Masquerade had collected and recorded. Thanks to his miniscule script, there was quite a sizable amount of information to be given; certainly more than one would expect by just looking at the size of the scroll. When the straining eyes reached the end of the document, the old man allowed an impressed look to spread across his face. Rolling up the scroll and tying it, he looked over at the waiting shinobi. “This is pretty good. Nice work. Yoshino-dono’s going to like this. He’ll be really pleased. Might even give you a little extra for the overachievement.”

Masquerade gave a gentle, sideways dip of his head, which could probably be interpreted as a gesture of understanding. Getting to his feet, Fugaku stored the scroll in an inner coat pocket, after which he pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Lighting one of them, he slipped it in between his teeth, inhaling deeply. “Well, that’s that. Someone’ll be in touch with your payment soon, most likely later in the day.” He nodded at the shinobi, stuffing his hand into his pockets as he began walking away. He raised a hand in farewell without looking back, calling out over his shoulder at the same time: “Good work here, kid. Maybe we’ll see each other around town. Later.”

Had he bothered to look back, Fugaku would have seen that Masquerade had departed the moment he had begun walking. By the time the old man had finished speaking, the Nukenin had already vanished into a nearby alley and out of sight. For the next few minutes, he remained out of sight, navigating his way through the labyrinth of back alleys. When he did emerge into the open, it was to crouch at the edge of a rooftop, hands clasped on his bent knees while he faced the seaside ahead. From below the distant horizon was emerging the celestial orb that dominated the sky during daytime with its light. Beams of gold and purple were spreading across the sky, creating a picturesque view. The serene stillness of the air, punctured only by the call of seagulls and the crashing of the waves, added a cathartic touch to the scene. Truly, the rise and fall of the Sun were moments that Masquerade found great pleasure in witnessing; there was something relaxing about it, something that seemed to touch his very soul. But this time, he was not watching the sunrise. No, his attention was diverted to his right, down in the alley next to him, where a pair of scrawny dogs were battling over some scraps of meat. As Masquerade watched, the slightly larger of the two hounds bit into the smaller one’s back. The poor dog’s yelps sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet of the early morning air.

“Regret leaving him to die?”

Masquerade did not look away from the brawling dogs. He took a few seconds to answer mentally and dispassionately. I chose the option that would best ensure my safety.

“But do you regret leaving him behind?”

The mischievous quality of her words was as obvious as the sunrise. Masqueradeat last looked away from the wrestling canines and towards said sunrise. Regardless of my answer, we shall find out soon enough.

By that, he was referring to his dreams. Thanks to the wonderful attribute known as his conscience, the Nukenin always found his guilt manifesting itself in his dreams. The degree of the horrific visions varied night by night, and more often than not, he would manage to simply shrug them off with no visible change in his demeanor. Of course, that did not change the fact that he saw sometimes say some gruesome things in his sleep. And considering what he had witnessed on that island, he would not be surprised if he saw those images visit him in the night. The Nukenin closed his eyes as he recalled the scene he had observed when he was making his way off the island. Whether subconsciously or by mistake, he had made his way passed the spot where he had left Kegawa to fight the wolves. As he had expected, the Inuzuka’s corpse had been lying there. The remains where… grisly. It had become clear that the wolves had not killed the male right away; they had ripped him apart and maimed him torturously. God knew how long Kegawa must have suffered before he finally died. Torn skin, bared bones and muscles, blood and innards all over the place… The remains had been almost indistinguishable. Only deductive reasoning had led him to believe it was the same shinobi he had been fighting a while ago.

Perhaps what would have troubled an onlooker more than the condition of the corpse would have been the state of the girl kneeling next to it, clutching her head and covered in blood and organic bits that undoubtedly belonged to the man in front of her. Her hysterical cries had probably been the central piece of the discomposing scene.

Just like it had while watching the grim scene, the smiling mask turned away as the wearer moved on from his position.


~ Mission Complete ~
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