A/N: Thank you for the reviews. Presidential Election pushed this update back.
Rasa read over the report his aide had given him. It was on the former mission completion rate for Genin and on the current mission completion rate for the Jonin lead squads. He had to admit to himself that he was impressed. It was a fifty percent increase in completion, on top of it more Genin were returning from the missions. Overall, the Genin teams were a success. He would do the same for the next graduation class.
Rasa paused, Gaara and Kankuro were to be in the next graduating class. He'd put them in a team with Temari, who he arranged to get extra tutelage from a Chunin private instructor. The Kage of Suna frowned, this was all dependent on if Gaara showed improvement as a Jinchuriki.
If he did then Rasa would need to pick a Jonin instructor for his children, already a few names came to mind.
Leafing through the report, he sharply looked up as a shinobi ran in. Rasa quickly recognized the woman as a Chunin that worked in the Aviary. The kunoichi looked somewhat worried, his visage hardened.
"What is it?"
"Lord Kazekage, a message from Tsutsu!" Rasa took the scroll from the shinobi. His eyes narrowed as he read the message.
"Find Hisoka, now! Tell him to come prepared for a mission!" His aide quickly left the room.
Rasa read the rest of the scroll; they would need to move quickly to take advantage of this opportunity. Tsutsu was the closest town to the Hidden Sand Village, roughly a day away, a few hours if they rushed.
There was no room for error with this, it immediately took highest priority. It was an issue that had been plaguing the village for nearly twenty years.
He looked up as the requested shinobi walked in, stopping short of the giant round table. Rasa looked upon what was one of the most, if not the most, talented ninja in Sunagakure.
"Hisoka, I need you to leave immediately for the town of Tsutsu. We have intel that Sasori has been seen in the town. We are unsure why he is there; you will be there to find out. If possible bring back Sasori, dead or alive."
He saw Hisoka's eyes harden, no doubt steeling himself. Rasa watched as Hisoka nodded in understanding.
"Due to the S-Rank that Sasori has and importance of this mission's completion you will be working in a team with three others. You will be Captain; name your squad and they will meet you at the Western Gate."
Hisoka stepped toward the table, grabbing the folder that Rasa's aide placed and looked through it, "Yes sir, I choose Maki, Sora, and if you allow it an ANBU operative."
Rasa nodded, "One will be dispatched into your command. Go."
Without a sound Hisoka disappeared from the Office.
Rasa's eyes flicked over to his aide.
"Will a Chunin, a Tokubetsu Jonin, and an ANBU be enough?"
Though Maki was a Chunin Rasa understood her inclusion into the mission. She was extremely skilled in capture operations due to her ability with the Cloth Binding Technique and she knew how to work with Hisoka. Sora was a Tokubetsu Jonin specializing in the Puppet Technique, she should be able to read Sasori's attacks. Adding an ANBU would aide Hisoka should anything get out of hand.
Rasa nodded, "They are Suna shinobi."
Sunagakure's Western Gate
"What is your name for this mission?"
The ANBU's eyes widened imperceptibly, he had just arrived, "Ibara, Captain."
Ibara saw Hisoka nod. He had heard rumors about the shinobi in front of him, he looked forward to working under Hisoka no Suna.
After a moment, the two remaining members arrived at the Western Gate.
Hisoka turned toward his team, steel in his eyes, "We are heading to the town of Tsutsu, I will explain on the way. Time will be with us for only so long. Let's go!"
The group immediately set off across the sands, hot wind blowing into them, the shifting ground beneath them barely registering to the shinobi.
Hisoka looked to his team, "Suna has learned that Sasori of the Red Sand will be in Tsutsu for unknown reasons."
His team was understandably shocked at the Puppet Master's name, though Ibara hid his much better. Sasori was infamous to a majority of Suna-nin, the man had more than earned the moniker of the Red Sand. It's said that the ground where Sasori once did battle in the Third Great Ninja War was still stained red.
"The capture of Sasori is the priority, if not alive then dead. He will no longer disgrace what it means to be a Suna shinobi." Hisoka's words were met with determined nods from his team.
"Captain, why would Sasori risk coming to a town so close to the Village?"
"Information, most likely."
Hisoka nodded in agreement with Ibara's induction.
It would give Sasori the reason for being in Tsutsu and it would suggest that whatever intel he is receiving is important enough for him to come to Tsutsu." added Maki.
"Or it's a trap. Sasori knows he's a high-profile missing ninja for Suna. It would be foolish of us not to consider the idea that Sasori manufactured this letter for help from Tsutsu knowing that Suna would send shinobi immediately. He could be waiting for us."
"We should operate under the assumption that Sasori knows that he's been seen in the town. From what we know about him it makes sense that he would take every precaution especially since he's come so close to the Village." His tone turned regretful, "Someone risked their lives to give us this intel on Sasori we will not waste it."
Agreeing with their Captain, the team continued toward Tsutsu.
After a while, Hisoka raised his fist and the team came to a stop on the sand.
"What is it, Captain?" came Sora's query as Ibara looked ahead in the direction of Tsutsu and Maki minded her tools.
"Just a moment."
Biting his thumb, ensuring it bled, Hisoka pushed his palm onto the sand, "Summoning Jutsu."
In a puff a small owl appeared on Hisoka's shoulder, "Greetings, Hisoka."
"I hope I didn't disturb you but I'm afraid I have a favor."
The owl merely cocked its head toward her summoner.
"Could you head to the Town of Tsutsu, it shouldn't be that far from where we are now. There is a person I'd like you to locate in the Town, he goes by the name of Sasori of the Red Sand. He should be the only one hiding within a large puppet. He might also be with one other person if our assumption is correct."
"Intel from the idiots back in the Village, Hisoka? Hmmm, I remember you telling us about the rogue puppet idiot. Very well."
The team watched as the small owl flew off toward the west.
"Alright, it might not look it but the owls of the Mite Forest have some of the strongest sensory abilities in the Ninja World and they make no sound. She should be able to tell us what to expect."
Ibara felt his respect for Hisoka climb, that was a well thought out idea. This way instead of them being surprised they should be able to turn the tables.
"Before we head out again, I want to go over a plan for when we get to Tsutsu and know where Sasori is."
Seeing his team nod Hisoka continued, "As you heard, Sasori hids himself within a puppet, Lady Chiyo mentioned its name was Hiruko. Our first objective is to remove Sasori from Hiruko so that Maki can use her Cloth Binding Technique."
Maki nodded, adding, "The technique will only affect Hiruko which will allow Sasori to escape with Substitution or some other technique."
"What do we know about Hiruko?"
Sora replied to Ibara's question, "It's famed in the Puppet Brigade, Sasori made it to account for the close combat weakness that we Puppet Users have. Back when he was in the Village, Hiruko had high defensive and offensive capabilities. However, since it's been twenty years or so, I'm positive Sasori has made upgrades to it. But like all puppets there must be a weakness."
Hisoka nodded, "Would you be able to read Hiruko and find it?"
The Puppet User's eyebrows drew together, "If given suitable time, I should be able to. All puppets work on the same base principles. Right now, I would say we should focus on corrupting and destroying Hiruko's joints. But Sasori is a true Puppet Master, he could have worked around that weakness as well."
"What of the rumor he uses Human Puppets?" asked Ibara.
Hisoka grew grim while Maki clenched her hands and Sora's eyes widened.
Human Puppets, the forbidden practice of using live or dead shinobi and making puppets from them that exceed the limits of normal puppets at the cost of lives. It was why Sasori left the village.
Sora swallowed, "I don't know, Sasori was the only person to have done extensive research into Human Puppetry. I'm not sure what he could have come up with."
"We'll assume for now he is using Human Puppets and we'll deal with them as they come up. That's the best we can do without information."
Hisoka waited for his words to settle into his team, "This is the plan, Sora will observe the Hiruko Puppet and relay all weaknesses in the puppet she sees to us through wireless mics," Hisoka passed out said gadgets, "Maki will prepare her Cloth Binding Technique immediately after I get Sasori's attention and then Ibara and I, with help from Sora, will force Sasori out of Hiruko and into a position where Maki can bind him."
"What about the potential informant?"
Hisoka answered Maki, "Once I meet up with Uchi and get Sasori's location I'll have her stick with the informant if there is one. Our mission priority is Sasori's capture or death. When we have him it won't matter who the informant is."
"If they are a threat to the Village they will need to be dealt with."
"Agreed, Ibara." Hisoka then looked over his team, "Depending on what Uchi tells us we will rework the plan."
Everyone nodded in understanding.
The team resumed their race toward Tsutsu, Maki made her way up to where Hisoka was leading them, their feet barely touching the sand as they ran.
He gave a questioning hum.
"Will you use those techniques?"
Hisoka was silent for a moment, "No, I won't risk the townspeople, I'll keep it simple."
Ibara listened on from the back right, wondering what techniques the two were talking about. From Hisoka's reply they sounded like high level yet dangerous techniques if his Captain didn't want to put the townspeople at an unnecessary risk.
As an ANBU Black Operative, Ibara was privy to information about various shinobi should any become a missing-nin. What he heard about Hisoka was astonishing, what he could do with his inordinate control of his chakra was mind bending.
Ibara was broken from his thoughts as they came to a stop, they had arrived at the outskirts of Tsutsu.
Hisoka was staring up at the sky, then raised his arm as the small owl summon landed on it.
"Just as you said, Hisoka. Sasori is in Tsutsu."
"Where in the town is he?"
Tsutsu was one of the few towns that succeeded in offering a large variety of food and drink, due to this it was also one of the largest. The town was most well known for being the originator of the Land of Wind specialty, the Sand Dumpling. The soy flour likening the color to the sand that it was born from. Throughout Tsutsu were restaurants, sake houses, and various other specialty eateries. It was largely a tourist town with few locals, it made for an ideal spot to slip in unnoticed. However, it was also the closest town to the Hidden Sand Village thus making it a frequent destination for shinobi which saw to its low crime rate.
"He's currently at Din Tai's Dumpling Shop."
"Damn, the busiest place in Tsutsu. I wouldn't expect anything less from Sasori. Anything else, Uchi?"
"Yes, Sasori is not within a puppet," the team looked sharply at the owl, "I was only able to find him due to the feeling of his chakra. None in the town have a similar amount of reserves. He looks around your age, Hisoka, red hair, and wearing a black robe with red clouds."
Hisoka's mind was abuzz, there were too many unknowns.
"What do you mean is around Captain Hisoka's age? Sasori left the Village twenty years ago, he should be in his late thirties at this point."
Uchi looked to Sora, "Hmmpph, that's what I saw, the idiot barely looked a day over twenty. If you don't believe me, id-"
"Uchi, Sora's just surprised," interrupted Hisoka, pacifying the owl's ego, "I'm sure what you saw is true."
Uchi stuck her beak away from Sora, "Of course it is."
Hisoka returned to his thoughts, going through what he was told.
Maki looked toward her friend, "Captain? What will you have us do?"
Nodding slightly to himself, "Uchi, what of a possible informant?"
"I didn't sense chakra close to him so I believe he is alone but his chakra was agitated. I think he's waiting on something, rather impatiently."
After the owl's reply the Captain continued, "Alright, we'll change the plan up a little but the core remains the same. Sora and Ibara you two will keep an eye on Sasori at the Dumpling Shop, do what you need to remain unnoticed. Maki and I will look for the informant and capture him then interrogate him if need. Afterward, we follow Sasori when he leaves the town after realizing his informant isn't coming then ambush him outside the town. We don't know his abilities, he doesn't have Hiruko with him which was the only information we had. At this point, Sora you will back up Ibara and I with your puppets. We will still force him into Maki's Cloth Technique the moment the opportunity arises. Understood?"
"Captain," started Ibara, "What if there is no informant? It's a small chance but Sasori could be waiting on dumplings for all we know."
"Give us thirty minutes to find them, after that we'll meet up with you and Sora. Keep us updated over the mics. Good?"
Seeing everyone's assent, Hisoka started moving, "Alright. Let's go."