The entourage of Ninja and I ran for 20 minutes nonstop at top speed, getting as far away from the port town as possible. Eventually, after many twists and turns, we made it to a large clearing. One of Ao's allies went through some handsigns and slammed his hands on the ground, causing a section of the ground to rise like a trap door, revealing a staircase that went deep underground. We all stepped inside, with the jutsu caster coming in last to close the entrance.
Walking down the steps revealed wide hallways, with walls adorned with oil lamps, casting an orange-yellow glow everywhere. Ao's group of ninjas left, going off to do whatever, leaving Ao, Zabuza, Haku, and myself alone in the hallway. Ao proceeded ahead as the three of us followed him, passing by many rooms and unfinished hallways with ninja stationed, performing Doton jutsu to expand the halls and make new rooms. A few minutes passed until our little group came upon a room at the end of the main hallway, I could hear the faint sounds of a conversation coming out of the doorless entrance.
Ao motioned for the group to stop just before the entrance. He beckoned Zabuza and Haku forward, and all three walked into the room. A few minutes of just standing by the entrance I heard Ao's voice.
"Come in, Tatsuo."
Grinning, I sauntered in the room and gazed around. The room had bland earthen brown walls with oil lamps like the rest of this boring underground base. In the center of the room was a large stone table covered by a map that I could only assume encompassed the entirety of Water Country territory. Leaning over the table was a Mei Terumi, and flanking her left was Ao and a ninja I didn't recognize. To her right was Zabuza and Haku, and man…
If Mei was a 10/10 in the show, she's a fucking 20/10 in real life.
Mei was a tall woman with fair skin and green eyes. Her long auburn hair went down to her ankles and had four bangs at the front. Two of the bangs are short, with one covering her right eye, and two are long, crossing each other on her very impressive bust. Her curvy figure, shapely ass and D cup breasts are covered by her long-sleeved, dark blue dress that falls just below her knees, but stops just below her bust, leaving a very generous amount of cleavage. If you focused enough, you could make out the mesh armor she wore underneath her dress. She also wears tight black shorts, and underneath those, mesh leggings that reach down over her knees. A belt with a pouch rested around her waist, and she wears high-heeled sandals with shin-guards reaching up over her knees.
"Ah, you must be…?"
"Tatsuo Kyodo, at your service."
"Good to meet you Kyodo-san, I'm M-"
Her eyes narrowed a fraction, but otherwise continued.
"Haha, I guess my reputation precedes me!"
"So, why was I brought here?"
"Yes, let's get into that. Here, take a seat."
A stone chair rose under me, similar seats were already present among the five ninja sitting in front of me. Shrugging, I sat down and crossed one leg over another.
"Zabuza and Haku have mentioned that you agreed to join us for this conflict of ours, and while I thank you for your cooperation and agreeance, I can't simply just let you in with just the word of one of our division leaders."
"So, in order to properly gauge some of your ability we're going to send you on a small recruitment mission with Ao. If your ability to perform is satisfactory, you will have a place among our ranks. If not, well, hope it doesn't come to that."
Was that a threat?
"…so, what do you need me to do?"
Mei motioned to the map, "As you can see, water country is a nation that is geographically one big mainland with several small islands surrounding it, four on the left and three on the right. Of the seven islands Mizu no Kuni owns, our faction controls two of the cluster of three south-west islands, along with the one north-east island. We have soldiers positioned at the south most island on the right side of the mainland."
The ninja whose name I didn't know took a scroll out of his hip pouch and handed it over to Mei
"Your mission is to take the information contained in this scroll, meet up with the ninjas on that island, and hand it off to them."
"What's in the scroll?"
"That's on a need-to-know basis. Now, in order to complete the mission, you will have to travel a fair bit of distance. We need to avoid mainland as much as possible, due to our proximity to kirigakure, so you will have to travel by sea. You will need to be careful, Yagura has naval ships patrolling the water, so instead of sailing directly to the destination you will have to make a pit stop at an island south of it owned by Nagi Island. Zabuza has mentioned that you don't know how to properly take care of a ship, so you have my permission to recruit 4 of our unactive ninjas to help with that, but they won't help with your mission. Got it?"
"Yeah yeah, I understand."
"When you get to your destination, you will be able to identify our ninja by identifying handsigns. We change them every week as to not allow the enemy time to use them against us. This week, you initiate with a ram sign. If they reply back with a tiger sign, they are one of us. Understand?"
"Repeat it back then."
"If I do ram sign, and they do tiger sign, we're allies."
"Good, now I understand that you have managed to smuggle several boxes of cargo, I'll have Ao take you to our storage room so you can deposit them there. Other than that, is there any questions that you have?"
"Yeah, if this base is underground how the hell are you guys able to breathe down here?"
Ao dragged Tatsuo off by the ear kicking and screaming. Well, less screaming and more threatening to blow out Ao's backside.
"So what do you think of h-"
"He knew my name."
"That man, Tatsuo, he knew my name before I even said it. Zabuza, did you tell him before coming here?"
"…No, Haku did you?"
"I'm sorry Zabuza-sama, but I did briefly mention Mei-sama's name when I offered for him to join us."
"Did you say her full name?"
"No Zabuza-sama, I only said Mei."
"So that doesn't account for how he knew her last name…"
I rested my elbows on the stone table and laced my fingers together, resting them just above my lips.
"As we all know, Kiri has done its damn best to make sure that the other nations don't know that we're in civil war. Because as insane as Yagura is, he knows that if the sand or lightning country knew of our weakened state, we would be facing invasion."
"Then that means…"
"Yes. For Tatsuo to have figured out the name of the rebel leader of a civil war that no one knows about, that paints a very interesting picture, no?"
"If this 'Tatsuo Kyodo' knew your name, it would be safe to assume that he knows more than he lets on. As redundant as this sounds, I suggest that we be cautious of what we say to him. It's clear that Tatsuo has means of gathering intelligence very discretely, so we can extrapolate from that and assume that Tatsuo is very perceptive and could decipher information from what we say."
"Even if it was redundant to say, Jou, it doesn't disregard the importance of your sentiment. Yes, we must be careful of what information we decide to disclose. But onto other matters, Ao mentioned that Tatsuo had somehow managed to transport some 20 crates of supplies that Gato was planning on shipping towards the loyalists. Zabuza, do you have any idea what was in the crates?"
"Yes. A good amount of the crates contained a plethora of rations from the land of noodles and a large amount of bamboo bottles full of fresh water. The rest was full of standard ninja gear; explosive tags, kunai, etc."
"That's honestly really helpful right now, we've been running low on food and water since Yagura stopped getting shipments of food directly from the land of noodles, those were so easy to intercept. Jou, Zabuza, get some of our ninja to go through the cargo once Tatsuo and Ao leave for their mission. We need to get to work distributing our supplies across all of our bases. Jou, on your way out, call for Daichi. I want to discuss with him the progress of our tunnels."
"Got it Mei, come on Haku. After this we're training the recruits."
"As you say, Zabuza-sama."
Jou and Zabuza walked into the storage area just as Tatsuo was done depositing the cargo from…wherever he kept them. I should find out how he did that, it would be invaluable for Kiri to have. A place to store massive amounts of weight that not even my Byakugan could detect? That would be revolutionary. I shouldn't push for it, however. Ninja are known to be very protective of personal techniques, I don't want to accidently offend him and have him leave.
It would be a shame to have to kill him before learning that technique, but the war remaining secret is much more important than some hidden jutsu.
Tatsuo turned to leave, but I grabbed his shoulder and turned him around. Motioning him to follow me, I walked further into the base.
"I thought we were leaving?"
"We are, Tatsuo. The base has multiple entrances and exits. We're heading towards an exit near the coast where we have a sailing vessel. On the way we're going to be passing a rudimentary lounge we have set up. Most of our ninja stationed here will hang around there after missions, so we'll be able to pick up our four helpers from there."
"That's not needed."
"I'm sorry? Zabuza said you don't know how to use a boat, and I can't make enough clones to operate it on my own. We need their help to complete this mission."
"And I'm saying that we don't need them. I'm not traveling by Sea."
Is he quitting? I readied a Kunai under my Haori sleave. It's a shame if he is, but-
"And put your Kunai away, Ao. I have a better way to get to the island, faster too."
"What do you mean?"
I heard Tatsuo stop behind me. I turned around to see his glaring eyes staring deep into mine
"You really wanna play this game? Fine. I'm not an idiot, if this war is as secretive as Mei made it out to be then it's pretty fucking obvious that both sides kill whoever knows about it but doesn't want to stay. Sure, you could imprison people for however long the war lasts, but that would cost a lot. Food and water for the prisoners, pay for the guards, all of that for however long the war lasts. Which isn't a concrete amount of time, so that cost increases exponentially the longer the war goes on. No, it's simply much cheaper and easier to just kill the people who want out."
His stare seemed to intensify with each sentence that came out of his mouth, an unseen pressure permeated in the air as I could feel his bloodlust rise the longer we stood in the hallway. Suddenly, the pressure I felt was gone, and Tatsuo was walking down the hall.
How…how did he?
"As for your second question, you'll see. Now let's go, if we leave soon, I'm sure we'll be at the island by morning."
I quickened my pace and resumed the lead, guiding Tatsuo down the twisting halls to our destination, but I couldn't get that moment out of my head. I had gotten a read on his chakra levels back when we first met, and honestly his levels are about the size of a chunin. For Tatsuo to have called me out with that level of confidence, the self-assuredness that he wouldn't die if it came down to a fight between the two of us…
Tatsuo must have some sort of ability that bridges the gap between the two of us, something that overcomes his chakra reserves.
With that thought in mind we arrived at the exit point. A quick jutsu later and the mud wall sank back into the ground and let us out to the sandy shores of the island's beach. To our right was the docked boat we were supposed to be taking, but for whatever reason I decided to actually listen to Tatsuo's insane request.
As we marched towards the shore I heard Tatsuo mutter something under his breath. I couldn't make up much other than the faint words of 'system' and 'inventory.' What those mean to Tatsuo, I don't have any idea, but I imagine they must be some sort of activation for something. It could be possible that Tatsuo has voice activated seals on his body, but that's something that only Expert proficient seal practitioners can do. So if this hypothesis could even be true, Tatsuo would have to either find such a person, which is already astronomically unlikely, or he'd have to be one, which is even less likely than the other possibility.
"Alright Tatsuo, we're here. Let's get on with whatever plan you have so we can go back in the base and get our crew for our voyage."
"Hop on my back."
"I…beg your pardon?"
"Get on my back or I carry you, pick one or I pick for you."
I was confused, but if doing what he said gets us faster to getting the crew together I'll play along.
"Alright, crouch down so I can get on your back."
Tatsuo shrugged and got into a squatted position. Crossing my arms, I walked over and looped my legs through his arms and let his hands grasp onto my thighs to secure me. I remained unimpressed as Tatsuo rose to his full height, carrying me piggyback. Suddenly, I felt much lighter, but that doesn't make sense?
"So Tatsuo, what's the next part of your grand pl- OH MY KAMI!"
As I was talking, we rose off the ground and continued to rise. Panicking, I grasped his shoulders with both hands to stabilize myself as we rose further into the sky. I initially tried to pry myself off, but quickly realized that getting off would mean plummeting to my death. I had no choice but to stay firmly where I was. We eventually stopped rising, and I dared a glance down. Kami above me we must have been easily 150-300 meters above the ground
"Okay, so here's the deal Ao. I can keep us flying until we get to where we need to go, and I can speed us up with some other techniques I own, but I'm not skilled enough with the jutsu I'm using right now to be able to influence the direction of my flying with my weight like how the Tsuchikage does."
Like the Tsuchikage?
"This is where you come in. I'm going to need you to guide us by changing direction when we need to, I'm sure I don't need to explain to you where you lean or shift your weight to go where, but for now I'm gunna need you to lean forwards so we can start moving. It's a good thing that you're in this position too, as we can make use of your Byakugan-"
How does he know about my implanted Byakugan!
"-to spot the enemy from down below. Chances are the ninja won't bother to look up, why would they? They're outside on the open waters, there's no need to look up. After all, it's not like the enemy can fly or anything, heh. But we need to be certain that we're not spotted, so you're gunna use your Byakugan whenever we pass by ships to make sure we're not seen."
"I don't know what you-"
"Are you trying to play dumb again?! Gaea save me. Dude, the veins around your right eye bulge behind your eyepatch whenever you use it. Hell, you had it activated when we first met. I know the Byakugan well enough to know the tells of someone having it. Now, quit your bitchin, and start leaning. If we do this quick enough, we can get there by morning."
With no other option I shifted my weight and leaned over Tatsuo. Sure enough, we started to drift forwards.
"Good, now lean back."
"Won't that make us go in the opposite direction?"
"I'm going to use a technique to make us go faster, but it's a lot of force and I'm pretty sure we'll just start spinning like a wheel in midair if I do it while you're like this. You leaning back will counter balance it enough to where the force will just shoot us forwards."
I clasped my hands together and secured them around Tatsuo's chest. I leaned back with most of my weight, and we started to drift backwards, but also tilting over.
"Bakuton: Force Explosion!"
Suddenly, we were blasted forwards with immense speed. We almost tipped forwards, but I leaned back with as much force as I could muster and managed to right ourselves in the air again. We must look ridiculous, Tatsuo is practically just zooming through the air diagonally, and I'm on his back with my arms strained against his chest just to sit straight up. But, a tiny part of me was amazed. We were so high up, I could see everything. The ocean's expanse, the islands below us, I could even barely see Nagi and O'uzu island to our right, and even that it was just a shadow on the horizon. I sat in quiet awe as I gazed upon the glittering ocean water from the night sky.
This is breathtaking
Tatsuo was trying to say something, but with the speed we were going at his voice was lost to the wind.
"WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU TATSUO"
"I SAID, WE'RE ABOUT TO PASS THROUGH THE OTHER TWO ISLANDS. BASED ON US GETTING HERE IN 15 MINUTES, HOW LONG DO YOU THINK THAT IT WILL TAKE US TO GET TO THAT ISLAND?"
Kami above it's already been 15 minutes?! Focus Ao!
"IF WE CONTINUE THIS SPEED, WE SHOULD MAKE IT BY LATE MORNING. 10AM I WOULD SAY"
"OKAY SO ABOUT 12 MORE HOURS, SHOULD BE FINE. IF WE EVER SLOW DOWN, I'LL JUST USE ANOTHER FORCE EXPLOSION."
Flying was fun for the first hour or so, but it quickly got boring just seeing the water pass by for hours on end. Ao, for all the shit he's done, did stay up all night with me, so at least I had company. Not that we could talk, at the height we were at we could hardly hear each other over the winds. And even if we could, yelling could potentially alert Yagura's forces, so we kept quiet unless we really needed to communicate.
But now the wait is over! Ao had tapped me twice on the shoulder, our signal for when the island was ahead of us. Because as it turns out, there were other unmarked islands that weren't on Mei's map from earlier, so we ended up stopping once on the way there because we ended up on the wrong fucking island.
On the plus side, we made it there earlier than we originally anticipated. It was a good idea to use that +5 skill scroll I had on Lightened Boulder at the beginning, cause when I got Ao back on my body again, I just used Force Explosion immediately instead of in the air, saving us some time, and once I believed we were getting used to the speed, I used a weakened one to hasten up the journey.
Ao didn't appreciate it as much, the dick.
Regardless, we slowed down when we got closer to the island, drifting at what seemed to be the speed of a car going through a school zone. On the island I could see the ruins of what seemed to be a large village. The houses had broken walls and caved in ceilings, while the village itself seemed to have a wall that encompassed around it, cracked and damaged barring one section that was just gone, busted through and destroyed.
"What is this place?"
"This, Tatsuo, is the ruins of the Hiroki clan."
"Never heard of them."
"Are you seriously making a joke at a time like this!"
"Dude lighten up, I've seriously never heard of them."
"Then they did their clan proud. The Hiroki clan specialized in assassination missions. Every member of the clan was expected to learn the chameleon jutsu and master it to it's fullest potential."
"That doesn't sound like they had a bloodline limit, when were they destroyed?"
"They were all killed when they refused to side with the third mizukage during the first of the bloodline purges. They had good relations with the Kagura clan and didn't want to participate in their massacre. The Mizukage at the time ordered the Kagura clan to fight them to the death for their survival. To the Mizukages credit, he wasn't the one to kill them. Most of the two forces ended up killing each other, with but a small faction left of the Kagura clan left standing as the victors."
"And no one has tried to touch it since?"
"It's more of a memorial thing, we of the bloodline faction respect the courage and resolve of the Hiroki clan had to stand up to the injustices that the third Mizukage wanted to inflict on the Kagura clan. For the Loyalists, I honestly don't know."
"…We should probably get a move on."
"Only you, actually. I'm here just to see everything through. If I come with you, then it's not really your skills we're evaluating, is it?"
"So I have to search the whole island for them?"
"No no no, that would be unfair for you. It wouldn't be productive to test you on purely a tracking mission if your potential skills don't match with that. No, I'll tell you the area you need to search, though you will need to find them on your own. But that shouldn't be too difficult."
As we approached the island, I lowered us steadily to the ground until we touched the shore. I let Ao down and stretched my back, hearing the satisfying pops from my spine. I twisted my neck and stretched my arms too, getting all the kinks out. Once I finished with that, I turned towards Ao.
"So where am I searching?"
"The Hiroki compound."
"I thought you said no one has touched it?"
"We're just starting to; we haven't settled in yet. That's why we're here, to deliver that scroll. You still have it, don't you?"
I pulled the scroll out of my inventory
"Yeah yeah I got it, so I just search the compound until I find them? Should be simple enough."
Ao gave a brief hum before disappearing, probably observing me from the tall trees that surrounded the clan compound. I walked through the entrance of the compound and began my search.
The main area was full of skeletons, garbed in destroyed clothes and dust. Scattered and broken weapons lay about the clan streets with even more bodies. Some of the skeletons had bones that shouldn't be where they were, no doubt the work of the Kaguya clan, though that surprised me. I thought that those who inherited the Shikotsumyaku bloodline were feared in the clan? Though that's from the account from what Kimimaro said, maybe that stigma came from whatever battle took place here? It seems kinda stupid for a clan who was known for their battle-hunger would segregate a member of their clan with an ability that would make them better at combat.
Doesn't matter anymore does it, both these clans are dead.
Passing through the streets littered with more skeletons, I came across a most peculiar site. A side road across the street was clean, no skeletons, no rubble, no weapons, not even any dust. That reeked of human intervention. I took a step forward,
Genjutsu failed due to Gamer's Mind
I narrowed my eyes and flexed my chakra, sure enough the clean street disappeared and was replaced by a destroyed street, but in front of it was a barely noticeable wire stretched across the two buildings that began the side street. Shaking my head, I continued my search for the ninjas.
After 20 minutes of searching, I still couldn't find anything, so I went and checked some of the buildings. Despite there being a big estate in the center of the estate, I figured these guys wouldn't use it because it would be so obvious to stay there. It's the biggest building with the most rooms, should be a go to, but for ninja they should be hiding in the smaller homes around it, or maybe further beyond.
Nope, they weren't in any of the homes I checked, and I checked every home besides the estate. I swear to Gaea if I spent the past hour of my life searching for these motherfuckers only for them to be in the most obvious spot I will murder all of these fuckers.
Heading inside I was greeted by dark silence, the building was clean though, and no hint of area genjutsu around. I narrowed my eyes and walked further into the pitch black room. Taking small, careful steps to ensure I didn't step on a trap, shuffling would be a more accurate description. Sure enough, I felt my foot rub against a small ninja wire. Sighing in relief, I formed a ram sign with my hands and held it out into the dark room. A minute passed with nothing happening.
God I feel so dumb right now.
The room was ablaze with light the second that thought entered my brain. The main floor resembled more of a trashed dojo, with balconies from the other floors adoring the walls, almost as if to allow people to be able to view the floor from above. Speaking of those balconies, they were filled with Ninja all forming the tiger seal, and finally a ninja wearing a jonin uniform blurred in front of me, tiger seal formed in his hands. I smirked and grabbed the scroll from my pants waistband, twirled it between my fingers, and grasped it, holding it out to the Jonin.
"Tatsuo Kyodo on a recruitment mission from Mei, here's the scroll that you guys needed delivered."
"Thank you Kyodo-san"
"No problem, uh..?"
"You'll learn my name once you're in."
"Poor manners is what that is."
"Whatever, how'd you get here anyways? We saw no boat but our sensors picked up two chakra signatures entering the perimeter."
"You'll learn that once I'm in."
A ninja burst into the room from a back door, startling everyone in the building. All of us turned to look at the frightened man."
"Captain, Loyalist ships spotted approaching the island!"
What? How is that possible, Ao and I literally flew here, there's no way they could have gotten passed us, we would have spotted them!
"How many did you spot?"
"I spotted 3 ships fast approaching, if I had to guess there's at least 20-30 enemy ninja in total on their way."
"Estimated arrival time!"
"20 minutes, sir!"
The leader cursed but started ordering the other ninja present. I ran outside and spotted Ao on top of one of the destroyed homes. I came up next to him and saw the three ships that ninja was talking about, and the ninja were clear to see.
"How did we not see them, Ao, we were literally flying above the water. Even though they came from a different direction we should have been able to see ships that big!"
"They must have been using a genjutsu to hide themselves."
"Shouldn't your Byakugan have been able to see them anyways? They would have been a huge mass of chakra if the jutsu surrounded the whole ship."
"We would have been too far away from them for me to see. Besides, it's not like I have my Byakugan always active, and we had agreed that I would look for the ships under us as we flew by, I didn't think to check for ships coming to the island from the mainland."
"What is it captain Kagano?"
"The enemy have destroyed our ships, we can't get off the island."
Ao closed his eyes in frustration
"Then we have no choice but to stand our ground and fight them head on, we must be quick. Start lining the streets and homes with traps, I don't want a single tile of the road to not be rigged to blow."
"Yes Ao-sama right away!"
"Thank you. Tatsuo?"
"What's up Ao?"
"Will you aid us in the coming fight?"
Quest Received: Save the Resistance!
Objective 1: Defeat the loyalists invading [0/30]
Objective 2: Keep the Resistance members alive [12/12]
Objective 1 Reward: Reputation Gains, 2 Gacha tokens, 1 C rank water Justu
Objective 2 Reward: Great Reputation gains, 1000EXP for each member alive
"Count me in, Ao."
"Thank you, Tatsuo. I'll be sure to tell Mei-sama of your willingness to fight for the lives of our ninja."
"Yeah yeah thanks Ao, less talk time more prepare now."
"Uh, yeah, sure thing."
Ao left to go help the ninja behind us, leaving me all alone on the rooftop of the broken home gazing at the enemy as they loomed ever closer. I could already feel the adrenaline coursing through me as the thought of all the ninja approaching us. How strong are they, I wonder? The thought giving me goosebumps as I imagined the fight coming.
I couldn't wait
Name: Tatsuo Kyodo
Class: Monk [26/100]
Title: The Jaguar Summoner
Level: 26 [36,925/51,200]
Stat Points: 0