Night// Land of Fire - Mumi village
From his hiding spot he watched the two genin, forgetting the bear for a moment. It was adorable really, seeing how the taller of the two remembered her fear of heights. His team was good. They all knew things about each other that seemed minor, and likely were, but they took care of each other. He smiled widely at the scene before him, and that smile widened a little bit when he could hear Natsuko laughing. Apparently she was excited about what was unfolding before them. He knew that the girl often did try to get her teammates alone, but honestly both were a little cold and distant so it was always amusing that the plan backfired quite often. Minoru watched, forgetting the mission entirely for a moment, as Koharu seemed to grip onto the boy a little tighter before she regained her footing. At least that was what it looked like to him.
She'd moved back a few steps after that and in the dim lighting Minoru thought he'd seem her smile up at the boy.
He watched their distraction and the way the bear seemed interested in the rustling leaves. He lumbered over, sniffing and grunting.
Night || Land of Fire: Konohagakure — Mumi Village
The clone looked at the original, sharing a look of determination. Her embarrassment about how she'd clung to Kazuhiko and Natsuko's question seemed to vanish. Of course they'd been placed on the back burner for now. She'd deal with those things later, Nusu was their priority now. (Of course that didn't mean that her red cheeks had lost their color yet. And really, Koharu was trying her best to forget how Natsuko had stated that she like liked Kazuhiko. Koharu herself didn't have much of an answer but apparently the irritated look of her clone had been enough for the girl to determine something.)
The moment that lightning zipped towards the bear, both Koharu and her clone were heading towards the bear. Her fear of heights made getting down a little slower than she'd have liked but her plan was simple: trap his feet and make it easy for Natsuko to get close.
There was no doubt that Nusu was big. Judging by where his shoulder blades lined up with the tree trunks, he was taller than Kazuhiko, and lengthwise he was almost twice as long. His panting was audible even from the trees, coming in low rasps as he lumbered towards where Natsuko’s breeze had landed. As he approached, his sniffing got louder, and Kazuhiko realized with a jolt that he might smell them before he got in range.
Shooting Koharu a meaningful look, Kazuhiko dashed through the trees towards the one above Nusu, his clone doing the same. His clone, however, was too far away to arrive on a timely manner, so instead he elected to release his jutsu now, finishing his last sign as he came to a stop at his destinated tree. The leaves rustled slightly, giving away his position just as lightning crackled to life in his hands, lighting up his position.
Nusu looked up, his eyes white with the reflection of the arc of lightning Kazuhiko directed at him. His roar died in his throat as the arc of electricity made contact, plateauing into a growl through clenched teeth.
Kazuhiko was already onto signing his next jutsu, not looking to give Nusu a chance to recover. “Koharu, ice him!” he yelled over his shoulder as he directed another arc of electricity down. His clone was now in the tree on Nusu’s other side, ready in case anything unexpected happened. At best, he had a few more charges before he ran out of chakra, so ideally they’d get Nusu pinned down before he ended up channeling all his chakra into electricity.
Unfortunately her ice still took a lot out of her if it needed to cover a larger surface. She had one chance at this before she needed to rest and regain her strength. The clone would help some, being made of ice that she could manipulate. As long as Kazuhiko could keep the bear stunned then she'd do her part just fine. When he yelled at her, both the girl and the clone jumped down from the trees they were in. Koharu wondered if their sensei remembered that all three of them needed to get close to the bear in order to complete their mission. The moment that her hand signs were done, she slapped her hands onto the ground while her clone distracted the bear.
Dispelling the clone caused it to turn to ice shards as her own ice crept from her hands, snaring Nusu's back feet. The moment her ice stretched far enough under Nusu, reaching towards the small pile in front of the bear, it solidified into a solid mass. Koharu had missed one of his front paws but three out of four wasn't bad. "Natsuko!" They had one shot at this. Her ice wouldn't hold forever.
Already she felt drained but she reached for the sword at her side with one hand, the other was pressed to the ground, holding Nusu in place. The village didn't want to actually harm the bear but if Natsuko was in danger then it was likely that force was necessary.
Minoru was watching, waiting for the moment he'd have to step in. They were doing fantastic though and he had to applaud their timing. Now hopefully the last piece, Natsuko, would fall into place.
“Coming!” Natsuko yelled, haphazardly dashing across branches as she signed her jutsu. Her hands darkened with a faint purple when she was done, blending into the shadows around her as she dropped down from the tree, landing in a roll. Leaping to her feet, she rushed towards the ice-coated bear, which growled and huffed in his white-sharded prison.
Having learned from the training session earlier that day, Natsuko made sure she was outside of Nusu’s immediate range in case he broke free. As much as she trusted Koharu, ice was ice, and if Minoru could break free, so could a huge bear.
Raising her hands, she focused, willing the purple haze on her hands forwards. She strained her brain, her eyes, her hands, and… nothing.
Retracting her hands, she looked them over briefly, muttering under her breath. Before she could try again, though, Nusu let out a loud roar, the sound vibrating against Natsuko’s pounding heart, which only pounded harder as the crackling of breaking ice filled the air. Stumbling back, fear drove through her, chilling her before the first few shards of ice bounced off her. Something underfoot tripped her, causing her to fall backwards, and she caught herself with her hands, eyes wide as Nusu bellowed again, towering over her on his hind legs.
Suddenly, something dropped down from above, landing squarely on Nusu’s snout. The bear was left reeling as Kazuhiko grabbed onto the bear’s neck, fixing his eyes on Natsuko. “Natsuko! Run!”
Natsuko scrambled to her feet, charging away from the bear. A second or two of running reminded her that there were trees here, and she quickly made to scale one, jumping up while signing a jutsu. As soon as she was up, she looked back, prepared to loose a Gale Palm, but instead she found a sizzling Nusu facing down Kazuhiko, who charged straight at the bear’s face.
A hand clamped down on her mouth, and Kazuhiko spun her around, a finger pressed against his lips. Then, jumping away, he waved her towards a nearby tree where the team regrouped. A glance back at Nusu showed her what had happened: The bear, who’d by now dispelled the clone, was grunting and growling, trying to catch the new scent trail over the smoke and debris around him. Natsuko wasn’t sure how good bears were at smelling things, but she didn’t really want to find out.
Joining her teammates, she gave them a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of her head. “Sorry, everyone. I thought I’d be able to pull off a short-distance chakra absorption, but I guess I was assuming too much...!”
“It’s fine,” Kazuhiko said quickly, his words rushed. “But we need to figure out a way to beat Nusu. Ideally, we shouldn’t be looking to kill him, just knock him out. I’ve got two or three charges of lightning left, but it’s definitely not enough to knock a bear of that size out. Also, when I was on Nusu, I think saw something stuck in his neck. A kunai. Not sure, but it was weird. Had a strange tag attached.”
“Like a summoning jutsu?” Natsuko asked.
“No, summoning jutsus don’t work like that. They don’t need to stay attached. Only effects that stay active need to stay attached.”
"There are few things in this world that can prevent a summon from returning home. The death of their summoner before the jutsu is released is one of those causes...but that tag sounds like the culprit." Minoru came to rest in the same tree as the rest of his team. They hadn't learned about summons yet, as it was a fairly advanced technique and the kids needed to Pace themselves, despite two believing otherwise. [color=dark gray]"Put your sword away, Koharu. We can't kill the bear."[/color] He looked at the pale-haired genin. She gave him a mildly irritated look in return.
Minoru sighed when she didn't put it away, holding it in front of her. Her fingers traced along the design in an idle fashion. She was thinking and he could see the gears whirling in her mind. Koharu re-sheathed her sword and folded her hands together in front of her as she looked at each of her teammates in turn. Her eyes narrowed in thought as she stared at Kazuhiko. Minoru was proud of all of his students, but he had a feeling that Kazuhiko was the brain of the group. That wasn't to say the girls were dim-witted, they weren't, but Kazuhiko definitely was a strategist.
"We need to get that tag and kunai." Minoru assumed that she was talking to herself at this point because he didn't see how any of her words helped their situation. Koharu looked down at the bear that was still trying to find their scents. Yes, her plan was foolish but if that bear really was a summon then she wanted to send it home. Something told her that the summon wasn't bound by a contract anymore, if only because it was cruel to not help a creature that allied itself with you. "We need to get close to Nusu. Even though we're all used to close quarters Kazu-kun is better skilled than either of us."
Minoru wasn't sure that he liked where this plan was going. Koharu wasn't a reckless person but she definitely was a risk taker compared to her teammates. "We are not going to do something that endangers anyone."
She glared at him. "Then why are we even here? If this plan goes off without a hitch, then we'll be fine. Nusu needs to get that kunai removed and the village needs to be rid of him. We have this one opportunity to make this right for both parties." In that moment he could definitely tell that the girl was indeed related to Osamu. He had to admire her conviction. She really wanted to help. It was also the most he'd heard her talk on a mission. "I have just enough chakra for one more jutsu before I can't use my ice anymore. We have a move at our disposal--"
"You are not throwing Natsuko again!"
"I never said I would throw her. Kazu-kun is who I'll throw. He knows where the kunai is located and he can shock Nusu again to stun him. He'll be safe. Natsuko will make a distraction with her wind, lure him close, he can zap Nusu and then I can launch him." Koharu looked away from their sensei and to her tallest teammate. She gave a faint smile, knowing that he'd object. But really they had no choice. "You trust me, don't you Kazu-kun? This is the only way that we can complete this mission." Koharu hoped that he'd understand that.
“Yeah, I trust you,” Kazuhiko said, meeting Koharu’s eyes briefly before turning to Minoru. “Sensei, throwing me is the safest option, and, as Koharu said, I saw where the kunai was.”
He stared at Minoru, hoping his sensei understood the unspoken reasons why he was volunteering. Besides the fact that he was better suited than Natsuko to take on Nusu, better able to both attack and withstand attacks, he was also able to protect his teammates by volunteering. Both Koharu and Natsuko could support him from a distance, and if it came down to it, he could attempt to use his taijutsu on the bear. Considering how large the bear was, Kazuhiko doubted physical combat would do too much, but his skills were likely flexible enough to ensure he could surprise Nusu a bit.
As soon as he got confirmation from Minoru, Kazuhiko looked to Natsuko, nodding. “I’ll be counting on you to support me.”
“Y-yeah. Yeah, I’ve got your back,” Natsuko said, her voice growing firmer as she spoke. “You can count on me, Kazu-kun.”
Kazuhiko smiled, then turned to Koharu. “Let’s do this.”
Minoru wasn't happy but he let them do as they planned. If Kazuhiko was fine with it, then he'd let them try. He could always step in and finish their mission for them. It wouldn't teach them much but it would keep them a little safer. He looked at the boy as their plan was set into motion. "Good luck." It was easy to see that Kazuhiko was the leader of his group, and he understood the boy's need to keep his teammates safe.
It was rather adorable, and quite admirable.
While Minoru was lost in thought, Koharu studied where the bear was. She wasn't the best with strategies, beyond offering up ideas, but she had a fairly good grasp on projectiles, and in this case that was Kazuhiko. Usually it was her little ice shards shaped like rough birds that she'd use. They were a lot smaller than Kazuhiko, fitting snugly in the palm of her hand, but the concept was the same. "I will count to three. It'll come from below your feet and up at a slight angle. 1...2..." Before she could get to three she'd planted her hands on the tree branch he was standing on and she'd forced her ice to balloon under him. Hopefully he'd actually land on the bear, she thought as she watched Kazuhiko fly through the air. Koharu was exhausted but readied herself if the worst happened.
Their sensei watched, dark eyes a little wide, as the pale-haired girl launched Kazuhiko into the air with her ice. It remained as a shiny clear blue sphere where he'd been standing moments prior before she dispelled the jutsu and it crumbled in on itself.
Standing where Koharu directed him, Kazuhiko waited for her countdown, ignoring his audibly pounding heart in favor of staring at Nusu. The bear was approximately twenty-five meters away, give or take a few meters for height. Considering the major dangers—Nusu’s jaws and paws, both of which tapped into the bear’s enormous musculature, would easily crush through skin and bone—Kazuhiko figured the safest place to land would be squarely around Nusu’s shoulder or scruff area. Aside from momentarily knocking the wind out of the bear, landing in that area seemed to be his best bet at trying to get a grip on the bear without it throwing him off.
This all, though, came second to pulling out the kunai embedded in Nusu’s left shoulder, which would hopefully dispel him. That Nusu was a summon and not a normal bear was obvious now that Minoru had pointed it out, and it explained the bear’s massive size.
Koharu started the countdown, and Kazuhiko braced himself, signing his jutsu. On two, Ice blossomed beneath his feet, and he was launched into the air at the silent three. He repositioned himself in the air, stretching his hands forward so that he was falling headfirst as his momentum started to arc downward. Waiting until he was right on above Nusu, he finished his signing, electricity crackling to life just as he stretched both hands forwards to deliver the shock. Nusu’s snarl was cut short as he landed on the bear, gripping at the fur on Nusu’s back as he searched the silvery-black fur for the hilt of the kunai he’d seen earlier. He had a few seconds to blindly feel through Nusu’s fur before the bear recovered from the shock, so time was of the essence, but how quickly the bear would shrug it off depended on—
With a roar, Nusu rose onto his haunches, reaching his arms backwards to paw at his head. As he did, though, a strong blow of wind batted against him, pushing both he and the bear forwards and forcing Nusu to plant his arms to prevent himself from smacking into the ground. Kazuhiko, though, took the opportunity Natsuko granted him to renew his efforts with searching for the kunai. The fur around Nusu’s scruff was longer than it was around the rest of his body, but his hands managed to knock against something hard underneath all the hair.
“Hey you, you want another blast?” came a yell from the trees, drawing Nusu’s attention briefly as Kazuhiko managed to wrap a hand around the kunai. Tugging, he freed the small blade, jumping free as Nusu reared back again with a roar.
Mid-roar, though, the bear disappeared, silenced with a smoky ‘pop,’ the leaves around where he stood flattened but no longer covered. Landing a few feet away, Kazuhiko straightened, giving it another second or so before he relaxed, the kunai in his hands still warm.
“Yes, we did it!” Natsuko yelled, tackling him from behind with a hug.
“Yeah, we did,” he said after he regained his balance, managing a smile. He had a little too much adrenaline in his system for the current hour, and though he knew sleep was buzzing at the edges, he still felt a thrill of accomplishment at the fact that the team had managed to work as a unit and pull off the plan, even if it was the second iteration. How far would they be able to go once they started tapping into the full well of their skills, only time would tell, but Kazuhiko was looking forward to seeing it.
“Ooo, is this the kunai?” Natsuko asked, bending down to peer at the blade in his hands.
“Yeah,” he said, handing it to her. As soon as he let go of the handle, though, he fell silent, his eyes fixed on the blade’s handle.
Engraved on the blade’s handle was the symbol of a flower—one that was familiar enough that it brought back memories of the windswept landscape of Kazegakure and a strange man in white.
To say that he was proud of his kids was an understatement. They'd shown good team work and a great deal of trust between them. Minoru doubted that there were many willing to let their teammates throw them into the face of danger. Minoru and Koharu were a little slow in getting from the trees. He'd congratulated Kazuhiko by ruffling his hair before stepping aside so Koharu could congratulate him as well. Her small arms locked around him in a hesitant hug before she quickly pulled away to check him over for injuries before doing the same to Natsuko.
When all was said and done, he'd pulled them into a group hug, his long arms wrapping around all three of them. He grinned widely down at them, forgetting the kunai temporarily. He promised them that they'd look into it back in the village, but for now they were going to celebrate their success. They deserved this. There weren't going to be as many successful, happy missions in their future.