Ultimate Shinobi - A Naruto RPG
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Mission: Deep Water [Private]

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Ulkira
Nukenin
Ulkira

Age : 27
Posts : 1836

Mission: Deep Water [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Mission: Deep Water [Private] Mission: Deep Water [Private] EmptySun 01 Feb 2015, 4:33 am


• Deep Water •



Day 30

If someone were to ask Masquerade to mention the greatest hardship he frequently faced in his Nukenin lifestyle, his prompt and brusque response would be: “finding a comfortable patch of ground to sleep on”. The Jinchuuriki often had enough money to satisfy the bare necessities of life, being of a financially prudent mind (translation: he was very stingy). But, such was not always the case, as the nomadic Nukenin did not have as stable a source of income as - say - a Village Shinobi. The “good guys” simply had to consult an easily attainable list of requests, and pick a mission that was to their liking; “villainous ninja” like Masquerade were not so lucky, having to actively search for jobs that rarely reached the ears of the public. After all, if a client was going to be involved in the perpetuation of a felony, then they surely would not advertise it out loud, but allow only whispers to spread. Locating those whispers was notably harder than just walking into a building and asking a receptionist for a list of missions - unless the receptionist had an attitude problem.

The fact of the matter was, the parsimonious Nukenin would much rather sleep outdoors for free than spend too much money on nightly accommodations - often at the cost of comfort.

In regards to comfort, the slumbering shinobi’s current “bed” hardly offered any true luxury. A thin, heavily wrinkled cloth the color of dirt was spread out underneath him as he lay upon a surface comprising of pebbles, grass, and more pebbles. Flat on his back with his arms folded over his chest like some Egyptian pharaoh in his sarcophagus, the unmasked Nukenin had his hood pulled low over his eyes to cover them whilst he slept. Though he may have been uncomfortable when he first lay down several hours ago, all discomfort was forgotten once sleep overtook him. It was his dreams that would then bring unease to him - dreams that sought to terrify, and were born out of fear, and guilt.

Deep asleep, Masquerade was unaware that he had an unexpected visitor. One moment, the male lay alone under a tree; the next moment, a man-sized pelican flapped down from the heavens to land beside him. The giant white bird eyed the sleeping human with a round, yellow eye that seemed absent of any intelligence. It then opened its lengthy beak wide and ejected something from the pouch in its lower bill. A large satchel was plopped heavily onto Masquerade’s abdomen, yet the male did not awaken from the impact of the clearly weighty object. The water bird took notice of this, and with a high-pitched quack, it waddled forward and jabbed its beak furiously at Masquerade’s exposed nose. A sizable cut opened in the bridge of the male’s nose, yanking him back to consciousness from the sudden pain.

With a yelp of surprise and a visible start, Masquerade sat up straight, one hand flying to his bleeding nose while his insect eyes swiveled around to glare at his attacker - too late, however. The giant pelican was already airborne and headed for freedom by the time it was spotted.

“Blasted duck!” the human snapped, rising to his feet and shaking a fist fruitlessly at the departing bird.

“It’s a pelican,” piped up the Shichibi matter-of-factly.

“I know what it is! Huh?”

It was at this point that Masquerade noticed the large, leather satchel lying on the grass at his feet. The item had been unknowingly knocked aside when he had jerked awake. Squatting down, the curious shinobi straightened the bag upright, frowning thoughtfully as he examined it. Without pausing to even consider if it would be unsafe to do so, he undid the several safety clasps and opened the top of the satchel to peer inside. There was a sturdy wooden box within, one whose locking latches took little effort to open. Upon opening this box, Masquerade’s bulbous eyes were met with the sight of numerous, small vials. Said vials were strapped down and cushioned by the velvety interior of the box, most likely to keep them from moving around excessively and thus breaking. There were about twenty of the conical vials, and each carried within its plastic walls a solution of iridescent colors.

“Do you also know what this is?” inquired the Shichibi, albeit in a sly tone.

“No,” was the sincere response as Masquerade lifted the box of vials out of the satchel for a better look. As he did so, his spied a folded rectangle of parchment that had been placed beneath the box. Masquerade pursed his lips in thought and directed his focus from the assortment of unknown solutions to the sheet of paper. Opening the neatly folded sheet, the Nukenin’s green eyes focused on the words that had been etched onto the surface in an identifiably feminine handwriting.

“Hello, Mask-kun…,” he read out loud, only to pause and narrow his eyes in visible distaste. He then resumed perusing the note wordlessly.  

In brief, it was a job directive. The writer had sent this bag of vials to Masquerade intentionally, having handpicked him to carry out a task. Apparently, the vials carried some experimental chemicals that an associate of the writer’s had asked to be tested. So, Masquerade had been instructed to make his way to a location near his current position, where he would find a small facility that supplied clean drinking water to a small village in the area. His job was to taint the village’s water supply with these chemicals. Stealth was optional, but discretion was compulsory. Enemy resistance in the form of antagonistic shinobi was not expected, according to the intel obtained by the writer of the note. The only humans that Masquerade was likely to run into would be the people that actually lived in the facility - who, in this case, comprised of a single grown man named Hikaru, and his infant of a younger brother, Ikki. The note had not specified what was to be done to either of them, only that Masquerade should “deal with them however [he] desired”.

Every word that Masquerade read made his eyes narrow and his entire expression turn sour. There was no name or signature attached to the letter to identify the author, but he knew who it was. He recognized the style of the script, the choice of words, and (if it was believable to say so) the jaunty and teasing manner in which it was all written. Not to mention, the way that the author addressed Masquerade in the beginning of the letter was a dead giveaway. There was only one person he knew who had the audacity to call him by the nickname…

“Oh? “Mask-kun”, huh? Guess it’s obvious who sent this stuff to you, right? Hahaha!”

With an audible growl that was reminiscent of a predatory cat’s, Masquerade crumbled the letter with his fist and dropped it back into the satchel. “Rumiho,” he grumbled, practically spitting in conjunction with the name’s utterance. Truly, he was surprised that the woman had the nerve to ask him to do her bidding once again, considering what had transpired the last time Masquerade had agreed to a request from her - but that was a tale too lengthy to recall at this time. All that needed be said was that Masquerade had undergone a traumatizing experience during the last mission that Rumiho had asked him do. In his opinion, it gave him a justifiable reason to avoid taking on any other missions from her. The Shichibi appeared to be thinking along the same lines, considering the concern in her next words.

“So. What are you going to do? Is it worth the risk to take on another job from Rumiho? Or will you say “no”?”

Masquerade took his time in answering the insect Bijuu, having returned his focus to the box of chemicals. After several seconds of silence, he reached into one of his ninja kits and pulled out his mask, which he had temporarily placed there for storage. He looked down at the eternal grin carved onto the smooth, ivory surface of his precious face-wear.

“No, I will not decline. As loath as I am in trusting her after the incident in that town, it would not be sensible of me to reject her request, purely because of any ill feelings I may have towards her. It is not very professional or beneficial to do so - particularly given her ties with Yuuji Subaru, and the rather influential occupation she has. Besides -,” He paused for a moment to fasten his mask over his face, hiding his disfigured visage behind the smiling stretch of white (completely forgetting that he had not treated the cut still present on his face). “- I am curious to know why something as… tame as poisoning an entire village would appeal to a woman like Rumiho. If the opportunity to ask her ever arises, I would like to be on good terms with her at that point.”

The Shichibi listened attentively to her host’s reasoning, only to snort derisively. “Please. You just want the money she promised in return, don’t you?”

“… There were a lot of zeros, after all.”


Last edited by Ulkira on Sun 01 Feb 2015, 6:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ulkira
Nukenin
Ulkira

Age : 27
Posts : 1836

Mission: Deep Water [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Re: Mission: Deep Water [Private] Mission: Deep Water [Private] EmptySun 01 Feb 2015, 4:49 am

“Nearby? She calls this nearby? No place that requires a two hour trip by boat qualifies as “nearby”! Does that woman have no comprehension of distance?”

A heavy sigh caused the Kiken’s chest to expand as he came to a stop near the edge of the woods. One hand rested on the rough surface of a tree trunk, while the mask with the misleading smile turned to look from one end of the open clearing ahead, and to the other. A vast lake lay before him, surrounded by grassy, treeless land for several meters. In the middle of the lake - or thereabouts - was a small residence of wood and cement; the little cabin was connected to the lake’s bank by a long, wooden bridge. This construct was clearly the facility that treated the water, with the supply probably taken from the encircling lake. But, given the diminutive size of the cabin, Masquerade wondered for a moment how exactly the facility did its work, since there did not appear to be sufficient room for any machinery or devices that could purify the water. In fact, he doubted there were more than four rooms inside.

The masked Nukenin did not dwell on the matter for longer than a minute, having other matters to focus on. Namely, the fact that there was next to no cover for concealment between his current position at the edge of the forest, and the house in the middle of the lake. If he wanted to complete this task without being detected, then he would have to tread carefully and with great diligence. But first, he needed to analyze the location. As a watchful gaze surveyed the area from behind the white mask, Masquerade’s mind swept the area in search of chakra signatures. His focused range proved expansive enough to provide a sufficient scan of the clearing, and he was therefore able to pinpoint the lone, single collection of chakra near the lake’s bank.

His gaze shifted in determined direction. Quite a distance away, a petite figure could be spotted sitting by the lake. It was a little boy, certainly less than a decade old, with curly, brown hair that sat untamed on his head - the younger brother, Ikki. The child was busy entertaining himself with an assortment of figurines molded in the shape of various animals. Masquerade watched the boy thoughtfully, taking note of the only important fact concerning him: his back was turned to Masquerade and the cabin, meaning the Nukenin should be able to easily make his way across the bridge without hindrance. Assuming, of course, that Ikki did not see him, but Masquerade was confident that he could sneak past a boy that was engrossed in his imagination. The only true cause of concern ought to be his brother, who was supposed to be the one actually running the facility. Masquerade’s mental sweep of the area, however, had informed him that the older sibling was not nearby - at least, that was what the lack of a second chakra signature implied to Masquerade.

“Speaking of lacking comprehension: any idea why Rumiho wanted this particular village’s water supply poisoned?”

I am as uninformed as you are, Shichibi. As it stands, I have no true understanding of what goes on in that woman’s conniving mind. Though, I am more convinced that the choice was made simply because of the location’s suitability. The isolated nature of this facility, as well as the detachment of the specified village from the mainland, does indeed make this place a prime candidate for a test so… “foul”.

“Sounds reasonable. You’d better hurry and get this finished, before the brother shows up.”

Judicious.

Securing the satchel hanging from his person, and throwing one final, brief glance in the direction of the inattentive child, Masquerade bent his spine to lean forwards slightly, before kicking off into a swift dash. Making a beeline for the bridge and the cabin, he did his best not to create too much sound as his booted feet stomped over grass and dirt - and his best proved to be pretty good. In a matter of seconds, the light-footed Nukenin had reached the bridge and was crossing it, all without having alerted the boy of his presence. One, two, three… twelve seconds later, he stood before the cabin’s entrance. With the upward curve on his mask accurately conveying his pleasure, the shinobi grasped the door’s handle and turned the knob to open it, slipping into the cabin unnoticed.

“Access obtained,” whispered the Nukenin to himself, surveying the interior of the little building. Nothing worthy of mention stood out in regards to ornaments or furniture, or their placement; the place was modestly and blandly decorated, leaving little to draw Masquerade’s attention as he gave the place a visual sweep. With a brisk pace, he stepped through the residence in search of his goal. However, he honestly had no idea what he was looking for, as the letter had not mentioned how exactly this facility treated the water; the precise manner in which he was to poison the water supply was unknown to him. But, he was certain that he would know what he was looking for once he found it. He surmised his objective to be a machine, or some sort of construct that would look out-of-place in a setting as nondescript as this cabin.

Thirty minutes was more than enough time to search every inch of the cabin. While there was no sign of any machinery or instruments to treat the water in any of the rooms, Masquerade did come across a trapdoor in the floorboards near the back of the cabin. The door opened easily enough, indicating that it was frequently used for accessing whatever lay underneath. A flight of steps was what lay underneath, to clarify. Theorizing that this was where he could find something to contaminate, Masquerade quickly descended the stairs into a ten-by-ten meter room of wood. The existence of this room was quite interesting, considering that its position under the cabin would put it beneath the surface of the surrounding lake. Masquerade wondered briefly just how much fortification the room must have to keep the water beyond the walls from leaking inside, as well as how much time, effort, and money it must have taken to build this. He only thought about this for a moment, because a far more interesting sight had captivated his attention: the water treatment machine.

Taking a step closer to the device that occupied the majority of the room’s center, Masquerade folded his arms and thoughtfully stroked his masked chin. To someone as technologically ignorant as Masquerade, he thought the device was quite an innovative piece of equipment. The machine was bolted to the floor, seemingly covering an opening in the room’s base, and sucking out water from the lake through said opening via a sturdy pipeline. The water was being pumped upwards into a container, which was connected to what was presumably the filtration system. Masquerade focused on the filters in question. This was probably where he should administer the chemicals he carried. He was not sure if the poisons’ potency would be affected if they were mixed with whatever cleansing agents were already in the filters, but there did not seem to be any other place to add the toxic substances. He may as well go with his gut feeling, regardless of what little faith he might have in his “gastric intuitions”.

Slipping the satchel off his shoulders and setting it down on the ground, the Nukenin unlocked the box within that held the vials of poisons. Tentatively and cautiously, so as not to make to a mistake that could cause the machine to malfunction and/or explode in his face, Masquerade poured the contents of all twenty vials into the filters. Once he was done, he stepped back to survey the scene. As far as his ignorant self could tell, the machine seemed to be working regularly. He supposed one way of making sure would be to taste-test the water being pumped out of the machine, but that would be a fruitless act, since his immunity to toxic substances meant that he probably would not notice if the water was even poisoned. That, and the fact that drinking poisoned water was a stupid thing to do.

Deciding that he had done all he could, Masquerade replaced the satchel back onto his person, and exited the underwater room through the trapdoor. Pleased with how easily he had completed his assignment, Masquerade reached the front door and stepped out of the cabin.

Mission accomplished; and with no mentionable setbacks, either.

“Hey, Mister!

Oh. Right.

Snapping to attention, Masquerade spied the brunette Ikki stationed at the opposite end of the bridge, holding a plastic octopus in his hand. The Nukenin halted in mid-stride, his hand letting go off the cabin door and falling to his side. He did not respond verbally to the lad’s cry, not even attempting to hide himself (where could he, anyway? The only option was underwater). A momentary silence stretched between the boy and the older male as they stared each other down. Over this hush, the Shichibi’s voice echoed within the Jinchuuriki’s mind, dripping with amusement and smugness.

“You forgot the boy was out here?”

I forgot the boy was out here.




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Ulkira
Nukenin
Ulkira

Age : 27
Posts : 1836

Mission: Deep Water [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Re: Mission: Deep Water [Private] Mission: Deep Water [Private] EmptySun 01 Feb 2015, 5:33 am

“What are you doing? You’re not allowed over there, Mister!” Ikki shouted with surprising authority. Evidently, the boy was not pleased that Masquerade was standing by/emerging from cabin. Despite his age, the brown-haired lad seemed cognitive enough to realize that what he was seeing was something to be riled up about (which was another way of saying that he was not stupid). Little hazel eyes were eyeing the mysterious figure standing in front of the treatment facility with far more suspicion than would be expected from someone so young. Indeed, the boy that Masquerade was looking at now appeared more mature than the one that had just recently been making a toy tiger battle a toy octopus - though the baby fat was making it hard to keep thinking that.

“Heh, some ninja you are, being spotted by an eight-year-old.”

Tsk. Shut up, Shichibi.

Of course, the Bijuu was perfectly justified in her taunting. Extremely miffed that he had been discovered by a child (not to mention, indescribably embarrassed), Masquerade hesitated for a few seconds, before addressing Ikki in the sweetest, most saccharine of voices. He even waved at him.

“Oh, hello there! Don’t mind me! I was just -!”

Instead of continuing with whatever lie he had concocted in his head, Masquerade abruptly stopped talking to sigh heavily and noticeably. While a moment ago, he had been alert and positively cheery, the male’s posture was now slumped in obvious defeat as he cocked his head to the side. He spoke to the alerted child once more, but in a very contrasting tone as compared to before. Gone was the upbeat, jovial voice he had been using at the start of his speech, replaced instead with a deadpan that alluded to his disinterested demeanor.

“Actually… You know what, child? Can you just go back to playing with your toys, and pretend you never saw me? I’ll simply be on my way without any further annoyances for you. What do you say?”

He was not pleading, and neither was he asking politely; his speech was serious and matter-of-fact. It was as if the shinobi had realized (correctly, perhaps) that no excuse he gave would be accepted, so rather than waste time doing so, he was hoping that the child would cooperate and look the other way. It was a silly request to make, but then, trying to lie his way out of this situation would be just as ludicrous.

Obviously, most Nukenin in his position would have simply eliminated the boy as soon as they were discovered. A greater percentage would have killed Ikki before making their way into the cabin, especially while he was occupied with his toys. But, Masquerade had elected to sneak past the boy instead of killing him. His reason at the time had been that the child’s disappearance would be noticed by the brother when the latter returned from wherever he had gone; and Masquerade did not plan to wait around for the older sibling to show up so that he could kill him to tie up any loose ends. No, it would be much more efficient to simply contaminate the water and leave without taking any lives. That had been Masquerade’s justification for why the child had been left alive, and that was the same reason that compelled him to stay his hand at this very moment as well. Even if he had been spotted, to the supposedly pragmatic shinobi, killing the boy did not appear to be the most prudent course of action right now.

Of course, there was also the possibility that some part of Masquerade’s conscience would not let him kill a boy so innocent and uninvolved - especially when no such command had been given to him. He may be considered a criminal, but he did not kill unless he deemed it necessary. There was often more to be gained in letting someone live than in killing them - like not angering their friends and throwing them into a vengeful rage. He hated whenever that happened.

Unsurprisingly, Ikki did not heed Masquerade’s request - the uncooperative little brat. He continued looking at the masked Kiken with intensified suspicion, and proceeded to point an accusatory finger at him. “You’re up to something, aren’t you? Something bad...” The child gasped dramatically in sudden realization. “You’re a bad guy, aren’t you?!”

“… Yes, I am.”

“Come on, at least try to deny it first.”

“Though, I prefer the term “ethically challenged”.”

His little quip did not amuse the tiny brunette one bit (or the joke may have flown over his head). The little boy pointed an indignant finger at the trespassing shinobi once more, and yelled out at the top of his voice: “Juu-san! Quick! Get the bad guy!”

Masquerade cocked a hairless eyebrow in wonder at the boy’s antics. In spite of his confusion, the Nukenin brought his guard up, glancing round for this “Juu-san”. But, he was far too slow: following the boy’s cry, Masquerade felt something wet and slimy suddenly wrapped around his leg tightly. Eyes wide in surprise, the startled shinobi looked down to behold a very thick and very pink tentacle sticking out from under the lake. Without warning, the tentacle pulled the male into the watery depths of the lake. As he transitioned from a world that was dry to one that was very wet, the startled Nukenin frantically turned his gaze downwards to locate the flexible appendage’s origin.

What he saw surprised him, and motivated him into swiftly seizing a kunai from his kit. The metal knife was unhesitatingly thrust into the skin of the tentacle tightly coiled around the Nukenin’s ankle. The weapon did not penetrate deep or draw all that much blood, but the pain it inflicted seemed to be enough. Masquerade felt the hold on his leg weaken and cease as the appendage released him, and pulled away. Wasting no time, Masquerade quickly swam back to the surface (which was, fortunately, only a few feet above his head). He emerged with a deep gasp for breath. If he had been paying attention, the masked male would have noticed that he had lost his satchel when he had been pulled underwater; however, his mind was preoccupied with more significant matters to worry about the loss.

A squid?! the masked Nukenin exclaimed mentally, pulling himself out of the water to crouch atop it. Chakra kept him hovering centimeters above the water’s surface as he glanced down in astonishment. Why is there a squid here?! In freshwater of all places?!

Calm down. Don’t be so dramatic. You’ve seen stranger things than a pink, freshwater squid,” the Shichibi pointed out in his mind. “No reason to throw a tantrum over it, Kai.”

Yes, but… Still… A squid?!

He had no further time to fume over his discovery, for a rapidly approaching shadow underneath the water forced him to leap into the air, and somersault backwards onto the roof of the cabin behind him. The same tentacle from before (or another one) erupted from the water in the hopes of pulling him back underwater, but the Nukenin had managed to move in time. Now, standing on the cabin’s roof, he diligently scanned the water surrounding him, trying to spot his attacker before it struck again.

His opponent was a squid. A pink squid that, as Masquerade had indicated, was somehow inhabiting a freshwater environment. For some reason, this was a source of great grievance to him - and he had no idea why. But really, the more pressing issue was that there was a cephalopod the size of a basketball court swimming in this body of water. And based on how the nearby Ikki was cheering at the squid’s appearance, it was clear that the animal was being commanded by - or at least, was allied with - the young human. This pink squid, then, was the “Juu-san” that the boy had summoned to confront the “bad guy” - with said bad guy being Masquerade.

You were right, Shichibi. I should have denied it.

“Of course I was right. I’m ALWAYS right. By the way, you know it’s going to attack you from behind, right?”

Obviously.

Masquerade twisted his neck around to glance backwards, and sure enough, he was treated to the expected sight of one of the squid’s eight, octopus-like arms rising out of the water. Yet again, Masquerade easily jumped out of the way of the appendage as it swept at him horizontally. This time, however, he materialized his wings to keep him aloft in the air, and rose as high up as his body would permit. Still, his maximum altitude was still within range of the squid’s ten appendages, particularly the longer tentacles. From his elevated position, Masquerade could make out the shadowed outline of the cephalopod just beneath the water’s surface. Actually, he could see it clearly enough to see the bright pink coloration of its body. For one reason or the other, the squid had paused its attack momentarily. Maybe it had been caught off-guard by the sight of a flying human? Whatever the case, Masquerade maintained his hovering position above the lake, watching the squid as it stared back up at him with a round eye as large as a human.

“Why are you still here? Do you plan on fighting that thing or something?”

Masquerade snorted out loud in amusement. Fight an animal as large as this one? As if. His hands went through a set of handseals, and though there was no visible effect, Masquerade’s jutsu had been activated. Just in time, too, for the marine animal was making its move as well: diving deeper into the water, the creature reached up into the air with two pairs of arms.

Masquerade did not wait for them to near, calmly shooting off towards the lake’s bank, going far faster than he normally would. Chakra was amplifying his flight speed, making it easier for him cover the approximate, thirty-meter distance between himself and dry land. Of course, the squid was adamant in capturing him, hence why the flexible, suction-cup-covered appendages continued to persistently shoot out of the water. Much to Masquerade’s surprise, avoiding the squid’s grabs was easier than he anticipated: the animal was slower than he expected. It was probably not used to catching prey above water; particularly the type that was able to fly with such agility, in a manner similar to a, well, fly. As it was, the Jinchuuriki was swerving through and around the squid’s limbs acrobatically and without difficulty.

Eighty seconds and one fancy loop-de-loop later, Masquerade feet contacted with soft grass as he dropped down to solid ground from a ten-foot fall. Landing in a crouched position, he immediately leaped to his feet and made to put additional distance between himself and the lake. But, further advancement was hindered as a cephalopod arm covered in suction-cups latched onto the shinobi’s leg in the same way as before. The squid had probably been waiting for Masquerade to land at the lake’s edge, knowing that such a moment would be a good chance to grab him - and it appeared to have been right. Masquerade allowed himself one short moment to mentally berate himself for being outwitted by a squid, before he returned his focus to the issue at hand. That is, the fact that the squid had yanked him off his feet and high into the air, dangling him upside-down as another appendage wrapped itself around his upper torso, pinning his arms and restricting his movement. Masquerade grimaced behind his mask, obviously irritated by what was happening.

Tsk. Could this situation get any worse?

His mood did not improve when he turned his head to look up (or down, actually) to see that the squid was lowering him to the water’s surface. As Masquerade watched silently, a large, beaked mouth emerged from under the water, opening wide as the shinobi drew closer to it.

Ah. Apparently, yes.




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Ulkira
Nukenin
Ulkira

Age : 27
Posts : 1836

Mission: Deep Water [Private] Vide
PostSubject: Re: Mission: Deep Water [Private] Mission: Deep Water [Private] EmptySun 01 Feb 2015, 6:03 am

Considering he was about to be eaten alive by a large squid the color of bubblegum, Masquerade was unusually calm - so much so, that his sanity might come into question. While he surely did have a few mental problems that demanded a good therapist’s employ, in this case, the male was not acting irrationally. Rather, he was keeping his cool to ease the execution of his escape plan. The squid’s strong hold was inhibiting most of his arms’ mobility, but he could wiggle the limbs pressed tightly to his torso enough to accomplish what he wanted: to dig his hand into his pouch and pull out an explosive tag, and messily stick it to the inside of the squid arm restraining him. With the slip in place, Masquerade forced his hand to form the detonation seal (a feat made difficult because of limited space, but not impossible), and braced himself. The tag was set off without delay. As hoped, the force of the sudden blast injured and surprised the squid. The cephalopod groaned in pain, and flung Masquerade aside - much like a toddler would toss away something in anger.

The Nukenin sailed through the air and impacted heavily with the earthen bank of the lake, his landing softened because he had been quick-witted enough to summon his wings and allow himself some semblance of control over his trajectory; and also because his own acrobatic capabilities had made him practiced in conserving his momentum during a fall. Still, the drop pained him, and the unpleasant sensation was worsened as he landed on the side that had just been subjected to the damaging force of his explosive tag. The right side of the shinobi’s clothes were visibly singed and slightly ragged, and though his mask hid it, his face was scrunched up from both pain and displeasure. Pain, because his skin stung and his head was pounding; displeasure, because he was momentarily forced to recall the explosion that had all but ruptured his body apart. But, no time for flashbacks: he was in the middle of a battle right now. Sort of. Masquerade would later wonder if this could even be counted as a battle.

Temple pounding uncomfortably, the man in purple rose to his feet a couple of seconds after hitting the ground. As he straightened up, he would turn his head around to keep the squid in his sights, in case it was planning to lash out at him in anger. Much to his surprise, the sea (lake) creature was not attacking. Instead, it was drifting by the lakeside a few meters away, its wounded arm stretched out in front of it on the grass. Standing beside the arm was Ikki, who was hugging the appendage that dwarfed him, while offering words of comfort. It looked like the human child was trying to pacify the squid, who seemed to be distressed by its injury. Wordless immobility was all that Masquerade had to offer as a reaction. The marine animal was even making an odd, whimpering sound that squids probably did not make naturally; it was something of a mix between a cat’s purring and a parrot’s squawking. For a moment, Masquerade wondered if the squid was a child just like the human embracing it.

Intriguing.

His musings were interrupted by a sound behind him. The Nukenin’s gaze redirected from the two “children” and to the source of the noise. A spacious wooden cart was emerging from the woods, pulled by a donkey and steered by a brown-haired man. Said individual, who was most likely in his late twenties, was dressed in a yukata of the same color as his hair - albeit a lighter shade. At the sight of Masquerade, the newcomer halted his cart and leaped to the ground. Masquerade did not even wonder for a moment who this could be. The newcomer’s identity as Hikaru - the older brother who was in charge of the facility - was obvious at first glance. And judging by the solemnity of his expression, he was not thrilled by the sight of the masked man in purple clothes.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” Hikaru barked at Masquerade, taking a challenging step forward, without actually drawing a weapon or adopting some form of battle stance. What his plan was exactly (if he had any) was unknown to the Nukenin, and of little interest. Masquerade shifted his gaze briefly from the older brunette, and to his younger brother and the (supposed) pet squid. It was bad enough that he had been discovered by Ikki and Juu - now Hikaru was added to the mix, too. It seemed there was only one option left for Masquerade. The masked shinobi faced Hikaru before addressing him.

“They call me Mr. Bad Guy,” was his reply, in a voice so steady that he sounded dead serious. He jerked his thumb at the squid. “I was told to come to this place and kidnap someone by the name of “Juu”, but it was only after coming here that I realized that my target is, in fact, a squid. Suffice to say, I’m quite flabbergasted. I definitely can’t fit him in the sack I brought.”

“Hey! Juu-san’s a girl!” Ikki snapped crossly in the background.

“I definitely can’t fit her in the sack I brought,” Masquerade corrected, without actually averting his attention from the older brother.

The Nukenin’s words only incensed Hikaru, causing him to frown intensely and clench his teeth in anger. “Damn you! You won’t be taking Juu-san! She’s a part of our family! Stay away from her!” Raising his fists in front of him, the brunette man shifted into what was supposed to a fighting stance. Taking into account how poor and unpracticed it looked, it was apparent that Hikaru was not exactly experienced when it came to combat. Still, praise had to be given when it was due: he was brave enough to try and stand his ground against an opponent that was obviously deadlier.

“Yeah! Leave Juu-san alone!” Masquerade glanced towards the youngest speaker through his peripherals. Apparently, Ikki was just as courageous as his brother: he was actually trying to stand between the masked human and his “prey”. It was kind of adorable how the munchkin thought he could act as a barrier to separate the taller Masquerade from the much, much larger squid. Said squid also readied itself, all ten of its arms rising out of the water threateningly.

Good God. They’re actually buying it. With his smirk concealed behind his smiling mask, the Nukenin glanced at all three of them whilst folding his arms behind his back, placing them out of sight as he dug one hands into his ninja pouch. This was laughably easy. “It seems I am outnumbered and outmatched. Clearly, there is only one option left for me… And that’s to run away like a little chicken.”

“Huh?”

“Cluck cluck.”

A smoke bomb was suddenly dropped at his feet, releasing a shrouding cloud that allowed him to sink into the earth unseen. By the time the cloud would clear, the bewildered pair of humans and squid would discover that Mr. Bad Guy had escaped. The older man would approach his brother and the squid after a few seconds, once he had ascertained with his eyes that the danger had passed. The two humans and the cephalopod remained ignorant of the fact that Masquerade had not actually fled the scene, but was presently situated in the treetops overhead; the leaves concealed him from their sights, but he could see them clearly enough through the greenery. Akin to a ghost, he watched the three as they retreated to the safety of the cabin, with the little boy excitedly narrating the recent events to his brother as they walked.

As Masquerade had hoped, the younger one did not know what the Nukenin’s true reasons were for coming here. Neither did he know that the shinobi had succeeded in his task. Hikaru did not appear to suspect anything else either; by the looks of it, he had accepted the story that Masquerade’s objective had been to abduct the squid. The Nukenin had offered that explanation so that Hikaru would not have to look for one. As long as the brother accepted that Masquerade had come to his house on a kidnapping mission, then he might not even begin to suspect that the shinobi’s true job had been to contaminate the purified water. An attempt at misdirection on Masquerade’s part; and hopefully, one that would prove successful. All that remained now was to wait, and determine whether the Nukenin’s efforts had been in vain or not.

“What do you plan to do if he figures out the truth, and disposes of the poisoned water?”

The lurking shinobi grinned to himself. I don’t think I need worry about, Shichibi. Not anymore.

Masquerade pointed to the cabin to direct the Bijuu’s attention to it, despite the pointlessness of such an action. Hikaru could be seen rolling out barrels of what Masquerade guessed (accurately) to be the water he had poisoned. With the assistance of Juu-san the Squid, the brunette loaded the two dozen large barrels of liquid onto his donkey-driven cart. As Masquerade watched, the brother got onto the cart and set off into the woods, no doubt heading off to deliver the “purified” water to the nearby village that needed it so badly. This small island, distanced from the mainland and all the other islands of Mizu no Kuni, had very little freshwater available for usage. This particular lake was actually the only inland body of water here. To the citizens of the small (and only) village on this isolated landmass, the service offered by Hikaru was extremely beneficial and valuable. In fact, given the necessity of water for a human’s survival, Hikaru pretty much kept the villagers from dying of thirst. A very important job, for sure.

And Masquerade had just gone and sabotaged that job.

He was going to feel like such an asshole later on.




Jutsu Used:
 

Special Characteristics Used:
 

Items Used:
 

Chakra Remaining:
 



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