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I just like checking in on the OOC sometimes. Let lurkers know they can still message here.
Hello, everyone! How goes it?

Lola Shigetsu_______________________________________
Misaki Mori
_______________________________________
The sun was just beginning to crest. With so much light, it was certain that by now their target had gone to ground. That's right... with the sun illuminating the whole forest, they weren't going to find her running about. It was time to scout, move, find their next search location before their target had the opportunity to move again. Their target. Ts. Lola clenched her teeth and snarled, forcing that rising bile from the back of her throat. She was furious. She'd been furious since she'd read the report. Ran... Wherever she was... What was she doing? She could scarcely make sense of it. The last she'd seen her was on that boat far from home, running away while their dad, that dead-beat, the pirate, covered her escape. She'd vowed to drag her back to Suna, kicking and screaming if she had to, but she'd do it. Dear old dad was safely locked away, if she could she would have preferred to avoid locking up her entire family.

Damnit Ran... Whatever yer mad at... just let me take you home...

She took a sip of an extra strong latte and poured a little more water over her waterstone before returning to sharpening her scimitars. It was meditative and calming. When her mind was this full and there wasn't anyone whose ass needed kicking and when it was too early for the strip clubs, sharpening and polishing swords helped. Unfortunately, her swords were going to be as sharp as she needed them to be soon enough, ready for use. She growled a little under her breath and felt for once a resentment at having to use them.

Lola had been a small terror to everyone around her on this mission. She kept her sentences terse and sharp and glared at anyone that referred to their target in anything but the most neutral of terms. While she hadn't snapped at anyone or made any sort of unreasonable demands, the tension was palpable. From the few extra seconds with her eyes closed as she forced out commands and strategies through grit teeth to the way she raised her shoulders and clenched and unclenched her fists just walking around, unless anyone had business with her, they steered clear... and for the most part, she preferred it that way. The only exception was-

"Sensei! Your swords look perfect, as expected!"

-Misaki. Lola grunted a slight acknowledgement and held up one of her scimitar to inspect. She chopped a little of the slurry from it and set to finishing the blade with a small piece of paper and some water.

"It looks sharp enough to cut through anything", said Misaki with a smile.

Lola grunted again and replied with a mumbled, "sharp ain't make the cut."

Misaki threw a powerful kick in the air, held it, and slowly made circles, keeping her foot perfectly level, hoping to show off the precision that SHE'D been working on. Lola sipped her latte.

"But it is sharp, sensei. You can't deny that!"

Lola turned her head slightly and glanced at her apprentice with a raised eyebrow, "Sharp ain't make the cut. It's the strike. Perfect strike, perfect cut. Best blade only helps an inferior strike."

Misaki knit her eyebrows and lowered her slim leg slowly to the ground, "But... it is a good blade."

At that moment, one of the scouts came into their tent and Lola indicated towards him by pointing her scimitar directly at the unfortunate shinobi.

"Sir", he said behind a desert lizard mask, "We have news that Leaf is on the move towards this location."

Lola sheathed her blade and frowned thoughtfully, "Yeah, we're approaching their border."

"Should I inform the scouts to avoid them or tail them?"

"Neither. This's their territory. No reason we can't give 'em a hello. If there here, they know we're here anyway. No reason to come out here otherwise. This's dead land. Gather a troop and make an introduction."

"Yes sir", said the lizard-masked man with a small bow.

Lola smirked a little. It was a happy distraction.
_______________________________________

Miho Senju"Yeah, maybe you're good... BUT I'M THE BEST!"
_______________________________________________
"Oi, Senju, they're meant to grilled, not flambéd!"

Miho looked up from her fanning for a moment to see Mekakushi-sensei spear one of the fish in her bucket and flambéd it himself! She didn't have time to point out his very important contradiction before he spirited himself away in a puff of leaves, the wind of his movement causing her fire to flicker. She pursed her lips and got to fanning it in the right direction! She'd surmised that the problem was constant even fanning and she'd even had the sudden jolt of inspiration to throw spices into the fire, since it was so smokey anyway, to help flavor the the fish! Sure, she hadn't had the best start, but now she was well on her way to making a fantastic-

"You know Miho, I've got to admit, your cooking technique is flawless, you could probably use that fish as charcoal for your fire... Absolutely genius", said a voice that Miho recognized before she even had to look. It was, of course, Juzo, one of her many admirers. He was always trying to impress her, even if he obviously could never quite beat her. He'd at least try, and that was something that Miho couldn't help but admire and try to encourage! After all, even if he did fail to shoot to her moon, he could at least sit among the stars, right?

Unfortunately, he'd come at a bad time. She was fanning with one hand and pouring white pepper with the other and, in looking up at him, accidentally poured a bit too much, resulting in a huge cloud of smokey white pepper and a very large sneeze right into the fire pit. The burning spiced ash exploded outward setting fire to the nearby grass and expelling pepper into the wind. Panicked, Miho kept to the fanning, but tried to stomp out the fire around her little pit with her feet! She could only hope it wouldn't affect the fish too much!

"Juzo! Don't just stand around", she demanded, occasionally blowing on the flame pit to keep the fire strong and aiming an annoyed kick at Juzo's feet, "this is your fault, baka!"

While she tried to keep everything under control, the delicious smell of smoked white pepper fish wafted through the camp. The fish was coming out just perfectly.
Stepping backwards, Hiro avoided death by the narrowest of margins, his opponent's thin sword flashing by him almost too quickly to see, and mere moments later, was followed up with a barrage of thrusts and slashes aimed at cutting out the Hyuuga's heart. Nearby, chaos ensued. Toshio, a whirling dervish of fire and sword, struggled valiantly against four shinobi, each covered head to toe in dark clothing, their faces obscured, and each wielding some sort of claw weapon. They rushed in and out like a tide, striking and then fading back into smoke. Toshio scowled and then plastered a cocky grin on his face... which was typical of Toshio.

"Is that the best you can muster? Typical trash. I can do this all day..."

The mission had begun seven days ago. As always, at the beginning of training, they'd been called together and given their assignments. Unlike previous missions, however, this one was different. It was not assigned by his usual sensei, but jounin with faces hidden behind animal masks with a serious air. Killers.

"Hyuuga Hiro", said one of the men in a bear mask, "your record indicates you've led many missions. Can you handle leading the main forces?"

"Yes sir", he'd replied with a deep bow. Already, the situation was strange, but that was no excuse to back down and shirk responsibility.

"You've worked with Uchiha Toshio in the past. Do you wish him as your second or would you prefer someone more suited to the mission", asked the masked man pointedly.

"I am suited to any mission", replied Toshio, stepping out of line.

"Excuse me", said Hiro, interrupting Toshio's inappropriate tirade, "But I believed that I would be selecting my own team for the mission."

"No, Hyuuga. You will not be", replied the bear-masked shinobi. Hiro's brow furrowed unintentionally.

"Then I would like to work with Uchiha-san as my second", he said firmly. The bear nodded.

"Naturally", Toshio interjected, crossing his arms, pursing his lips, and sticking his nose in the air.

"In that case, Sarutobi Tama, you are being promoted to leader of the secondary team", the bear continued.

"I-I am? Yes sir", replied the Sarutobi with several quick and very serious bows. Hiro clenched his teeth. Were they separating out his entire team?

"Abarame Suzu, you will be her second, if it pleases her."

Yes. They were separating them.

"Now, the rest of you may open your envelope. You will find your assigned team in them. Gather together and move out immediately."

Hiro gave a quick sly glance to the rest of the group and opened his own envelope, which contained the names of his assigned team. It was large, larger than what he was used to, and filled with the same sort of ninja that he rarely spent time on. These were not the more subtle and strategy-minded members of the famous 3rd Battalion, but the hammers.

--------------------

These rogue ninja groups had begun springing up during the tense political climate between the villages. They were well-funded, well-equipped, and seemed to be well-trained. These were not some minor village specialists (they were too competent, far too competent, and powerful) and the 3rd Battalion had been tasked with routing and capturing them. Hiro had been the natural choice to lead the main team, which pleased him, though he thought it vulgar to show it. In his mind, it was only natural that he would lead. Even if he hadn't been a Hyuuga, his flawless record spoke for itself. He'd put together a few hand-picked

, but was not able to choose either of his usual back ups to his team... No, they made up the leadership of the second team, the stealth and support team. It was a lesson to him. It was a lesson to him, but it made him uncomfortable. He supposed that after having people with whom he worked regularly, he'd formed bonds with them, sentimentality. A weakness? It was unimportant.

Hiro's team was tasked with finding and engaging immediately, to defeat and capture or at least hold them off. It was infantry, heavy assault, and that made him uncomfortable as well. In the past, he'd led small strike teams of people he was familiar with, that he knew he could rely on; he and his chosen few would carry out quick and quiet attacks which overwhelmed the enemy before they even knew what hit them. Now... He didn't have that luxury. The famously persnickety and guarded genin had to lead whoever he was assigned, people that knew him only from a distance, who could not anticipate or coordinate with him naturally. He had been at a loss.

As they'd traveled, he'd looked for more people to delegate to, perhaps diamonds in the rough to carry his orders to the others, make them understand... But his lot was very rough. It was a team handpicked for frontal assault.

Lola Shigetsu_______________________________________
Misaki Mori
_______________________________________
The sun was just beginning to crest. With so much light, it was certain that by now their target had gone to ground. That's right... with the sun illuminating the whole forest, they weren't going to find her running about. It was time to scout, move, find their next search location before their target had the opportunity to move again. Their target. Ts. Lola clenched her teeth and snarled, forcing that rising bile from the back of her throat. She was furious. She'd been furious since she'd read the report. Ran... Wherever she was... What was she doing? She could scarcely make sense of it. The last she'd seen her was on that boat far from home, running away while their dad, that dead-beat, the pirate, covered her escape. She'd vowed to drag her back to Suna, kicking and screaming if she had to, but she'd do it. Dear old dad was safely locked away, if she could she would have preferred to avoid locking up her entire family.

Damnit Ran... Whatever yer mad at... just let me take you home...

She took a sip of an extra strong latte and poured a little more water over her waterstone before returning to sharpening her scimitars. It was meditative and calming. When her mind was this full and there wasn't anyone whose ass needed kicking and when it was too early for the strip clubs, sharpening and polishing swords helped. Unfortunately, her swords were going to be as sharp as she needed them to be soon enough, ready for use. She growled a little under her breath and felt for once a resentment at having to use them.

Lola had been a small terror to everyone around her on this mission. She kept her sentences terse and sharp and glared at anyone that referred to their target in anything but the most neutral of terms. While she hadn't snapped at anyone or made any sort of unreasonable demands, the tension was palpable. From the few extra seconds with her eyes closed as she forced out commands and strategies through grit teeth to the way she raised her shoulders and clenched and unclenched her fists just walking around, unless anyone had business with her, they steered clear... and for the most part, she preferred it that way. The only exception was-

"Sensei! Your swords look perfect, as expected!"

-Misaki. Lola grunted a slight acknowledgement and held up one of her scimitar to inspect. She chopped a little of the slurry from it and set to finishing the blade with a small piece of paper and some water.

"It looks sharp enough to cut through anything", said Misaki with a smile.

Lola grunted again and replied with a mumbled, "sharp ain't make the cut."

Misaki threw a powerful kick in the air, held it, and slowly made circles, keeping her foot perfectly level, hoping to show off the precision that SHE'D been working on. Lola sipped her latte.

"But it is sharp, sensei. You can't deny that!"

Lola turned her head slightly and glanced at her apprentice with a raised eyebrow, "Sharp ain't make the cut. It's the strike. Perfect strike, perfect cut. Best blade only helps an inferior strike."

Misaki knit her eyebrows and lowered her slim leg slowly to the ground, "But... it is a good blade."

At that moment, one of the scouts came into their tent and Lola indicated towards him by pointing her scimitar directly at the unfortunate shinobi.

"Sir", he said behind a desert lizard mask, "We have news that Leaf is on the move towards this location."

Lola sheathed her blade and frowned thoughtfully, "Yeah, we're approaching their border."

"Should I inform the scouts to avoid them or tail them?"

"Neither. This's their territory. No reason we can't give 'em a hello. If there here, they know we're here anyway. No reason to come out here otherwise. This's dead land. Gather a troop and make an introduction."

"Yes sir", said the lizard-masked man with a small bow.

Lola smirked a little. It was a happy distraction.
_______________________________________
Hello, folks!

Ran Shigetsu
"You want justice?
There is no justice.
There is only what justice you make."


In another part of the forest and along a long forgotten dirt road there was a small village that (in more prosperous times) had made its trade selling growing and selling daikon along what was known (in more prosperous times) as the Vegetable Road. The Vegetable Road was a stretch of highly fertile land that in ancient times had attracted farmers and traders, each setting up villages around a particular product and bartering with each other and later the rest of Konoha. Though never as wealthy as the more centralized trading capitals, the villages of the Vegetable Road were, nonetheless, well-to-do in the way that successful agrarian villages sometimes are. Each village, for example, could afford their own decorated shrine and well support their priests and nuns who would, kindly, pray to whatever kami would guarantee a good harvest. The carrot village prayed to the carrot kami, the buckwheat village prayed to the buckwheat kami, and the daikon village, with its two giant stone daikon carrying spears at its entrance, worshiped the daikon kami.

The people of the daikon village were simple, but not without their own language and character. It was common to hear an old daikoner declare "this daikon is my child" when tasting a particularly good daikon-based dish or to exclaim "what is this spy doing in my ramen" whenever they might come across a bit of cabbage, for the daikon and cabbage villages had been rivals for generations. Within the daikon village, this amounted to daikoners sometimes planting cabbage in their fellows' food as a practical joke, declaring them a spy for the cabbagers, but once a season the two villages would come together and compete against one another in the "Vegetable Games", followed by a two day holiday and festival. Brawls were few, but anyone caught fighting would be dropped in an enormous vegetable soup in the middle of the village.

The village came to an abrupt end on a night when the village chief, the daikon priest, and their local constable were sitting around a table eating grilled daikon with mushrooms and tofu, daikon clams and potato hotpot, and daikon and mackerel. Each sipped their tall mug of daikon beer and discussed the strange news of shinobi in the local area and even the Daimyo's men occupying the taro village. It was a darker and quieter night than was customary for the summer season and a heavy atmosphere permeated the whole village. Even the cicada would not sing.

"What if the Daimyo's men come here", demanded the constable, who had not yet touched his food and nursed his daikon beer anemically. He was younger than the others, only just entering middle age and had celebrated the occasion by growing a mustache and wearing a hat to hide the evidence of the war he was losing with his hairline. No one mentioned his hat.

"Then we will have to afford them the courtesy of the daikon. We aren't cabbagers", said the village chief, a man with a much more prestigious mustache, long and silvery and reaching his neck. He had the benefit of having a very hairy mother and his head was a garden of silver fluff, which he had to tame in a knot. It made the constable very uncomfortable, and he never met the chief eye to eye, instead drifting his gaze a few inches higher accidentally.

"And if they want our crops", the constable retorted, "Will we let them take them? I don't have the manpower to resist samurai."

"Why would they take our crops? We aren't at war", the chief replied, sipping his beer furrowing his brow, but the constable did not seem convinced. He raised an eyebrow and pointed a finger in the air to underscore his next point.

"You forget. There are shinobi on the move as well. It could be Leaf business."

"Well...", sighed the chief, "It could be. What do you think, Kannushi?"

Both men turned to the priest who had been silent up until that point. He stroked his long white beard, scratched his bald head, looked into his beer glass, and then stated with studied authority, "There was a maggot on the offerings this morning."

Both the constable and the chief looked intently on the priest and then seemed to nod in unison. A few seconds later, the constable his head slightly towards the priest, as if to ask for permission to speak again, frowned, and then said, "I am only suggesting that we-"

But whatever his suggestion was was interrupted by a loud scream from outside. The constable was the first to respond, grabbing the club from his belt and dashing out and looking around madly for whatever the trouble was. His eyes fell on a giant shadow looming in the night getting closer and closer. The constable did not hear a second scream and in a moment, there weren't any screams at all.

And that was the end of the village, its people, and the Vegetable Road. The Juubi's rampage had wiped out everyone and the ground had been blackened and seethed with a virulent hatred that most animals and even insects avoided instinctively. Nothing but twisted pallid trees and the most stubborn and hardiest of fungus grew here now. The daikon village was no more, forgotten in times, a footnote in a record book. Even the daikon temple, the pride of the village, was empty. There were no maggots. There were no insects. There were no bodies-

Except one.

Haggard and dirty, what could have been a young woman sat leaning against the corner of the room. She wore a filthy kimono that was more rags than silk. It could have been beautiful at one time but so ripped and ruined stained and muddy was it that whatever it may have been before, it was ugly now. The young woman herself breathed slowly and intentionally, as if counting the seconds of each breath. Every exhale, a quiet growl. She was battered and bruised with blue on her cheek and bloodstains on her sleeves, on her side, mixing with mud to form a wholly unpleasant and foreboding color. Her matted hair stuck to her face and she wiped it out of her wild eyes, which darted, on occasion to the window as if asking "was that a falling leaf or something... else?"

In fact, the only things about her that weren't despoiled were her teeth, which were brilliantly white and clean, and the massive sword that was leaning against the wall next to her. How she had gotten the giant thing there was a mystery, but whenever she found her eyes darting to the window, she seemed to instinctively put her hand on its blade, as if checking to see it was still there. Then, she'd look around the room and inspect the near invisible wires stretched taught everywhere. She'd check each one in a sort of pattern... but she couldn't seem to focus for long and her eyes would glaze over in exhaustion.

The daikon village had not existed for a long time.

Ran Shigetsu
"You want justice?
There is no justice.
There is only what justice you make."


In another part of the forest and along a long forgotten dirt road there was a small village that (in more prosperous times) had made its trade selling growing and selling daikon along what was known (in more prosperous times) as the Vegetable Road. The Vegetable Road was a stretch of highly fertile land that in ancient times had attracted farmers and traders, each setting up villages around a particular product and bartering with each other and later the rest of Konoha. Though never as wealthy as the more centralized trading capitals, the villages of the Vegetable Road were, nonetheless, well-to-do in the way that successful agrarian villages sometimes are. Each village, for example, could afford their own decorated shrine and well support their priests and nuns who would, kindly, pray to whatever kami would guarantee a good harvest. The carrot village prayed to the carrot kami, the buckwheat village prayed to the buckwheat kami, and the daikon village, with its two giant stone daikon carrying spears at its entrance, worshiped the daikon kami.

The people of the daikon village were simple, but not without their own language and character. It was common to hear an old daikoner declare "this daikon is my child" when tasting a particularly good daikon-based dish or to exclaim "what is this spy doing in my ramen" whenever they might come across a bit of cabbage, for the daikon and cabbage villages had been rivals for generations. Within the daikon village, this amounted to daikoners sometimes planting cabbage in their fellows' food as a practical joke, declaring them a spy for the cabbagers, but once a season the two villages would come together and compete against one another in the "Vegetable Games", followed by a two day holiday and festival. Brawls were few, but anyone caught fighting would be dropped in an enormous vegetable soup in the middle of the village.

The village came to an abrupt end on a night when the village chief, the daikon priest, and their local constable were sitting around a table eating grilled daikon with mushrooms and tofu, daikon clams and potato hotpot, and daikon and mackerel. Each sipped their tall mug of daikon beer and discussed the strange news of shinobi in the local area and even the Daimyo's men occupying the taro village. It was a darker and quieter night than was customary for the summer season and a heavy atmosphere permeated the whole village. Even the cicada would not sing.

"What if the Daimyo's men come here", demanded the constable, who had not yet touched his food and nursed his daikon beer anemically. He was younger than the others, only just entering middle age and had celebrated the occasion by growing a mustache and wearing a hat to hide the evidence of the war he was losing with his hairline. No one mentioned his hat.

"Then we will have to afford them the courtesy of the daikon. We aren't cabbagers", said the village chief, a man with a much more prestigious mustache, long and silvery and reaching his neck. He had the benefit of having a very hairy mother and his head was a garden of silver fluff, which he had to tame in a knot. It made the constable very uncomfortable, and he never met the chief eye to eye, instead drifting his gaze a few inches higher accidentally.

"And if they want our crops", the constable retorted, "Will we let them take them? I don't have the manpower to resist samurai."

"Why would they take our crops? We aren't at war", the chief replied, sipping his beer furrowing his brow, but the constable did not seem convinced. He raised an eyebrow and pointed a finger in the air to underscore his next point.

"You forget. There are shinobi on the move as well. It could be Leaf business."

"Well...", sighed the chief, "It could be. What do you think, Kannushi?"

Both men turned to the priest who had been silent up until that point. He stroked his long white beard, scratched his bald head, looked into his beer glass, and then stated with studied authority, "There was a maggot on the offerings this morning."

Both the constable and the chief looked intently on the priest and then seemed to nod in unison. A few seconds later, the constable his head slightly towards the priest, as if to ask for permission to speak again, frowned, and then said, "I am only suggesting that we-"

But whatever his suggestion was was interrupted by a loud scream from outside. The constable was the first to respond, grabbing the club from his belt and dashing out and looking around madly for whatever the trouble was. His eyes fell on a giant shadow looming in the night getting closer and closer. The constable did not hear a second scream and in a moment, there weren't any screams at all.

And that was the end of the village, its people, and the Vegetable Road. The Juubi's rampage had wiped out everyone and the ground had been blackened and seethed with a virulent hatred that most animals and even insects avoided instinctively. Nothing but twisted pallid trees and the most stubborn and hardiest of fungus grew here now. The daikon village was no more, forgotten in times, a footnote in a record book. Even the daikon temple, the pride of the village, was empty. There were no maggots. There were no insects. There were no bodies-

Except one.

Haggard and dirty, what could have been a young woman sat leaning against the corner of the room. She wore a filthy kimono that was more rags than silk. It could have been beautiful at one time but so ripped and ruined stained and muddy was it that whatever it may have been before, it was ugly now. The young woman herself breathed slowly and intentionally, as if counting the seconds of each breath. Every exhale, a quiet growl. She was battered and bruised with blue on her cheek and bloodstains on her sleeves, on her side, mixing with mud to form a wholly unpleasant and foreboding color. Her matted hair stuck to her face and she wiped it out of her wild eyes, which darted, on occasion to the window as if asking "was that a falling leaf or something... else?"

In fact, the only things about her that weren't despoiled were her teeth, which were brilliantly white and clean, and the massive sword that was leaning against the wall next to her. How she had gotten the giant thing there was a mystery, but whenever she found her eyes darting to the window, she seemed to instinctively put her hand on its blade, as if checking to see it was still there. Then, she'd look around the room and inspect the near invisible wires stretched taught everywhere. She'd check each one in a sort of pattern... but she couldn't seem to focus for long and her eyes would glaze over in exhaustion.

The daikon village had not existed for a long time.
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