It didn’t take much convincing when Chino came to, mostly because she didn’t really have any other options. After a quick rundown of her abilities, Chino seemed to be a pretty good fighter, having apparently been trained in an arena similar to those kids the Yakuza were fighting, but the thing about shinobi was when it came to actual operations, fighting prowess wasn’t the only skill in play.
Was it still important? Yes, but if shinobi battles were only ever decided by straight up brawls then they wouldn’t really be shinobi battles. After all, real shinobi did not fight fair. Chino was actually fairly confident she could kill the assassins who had her friends, what she was less than confident about was doing so quickly enough to save them from being killed in turn. Especially since none of them were at all proficient in medical jutsu.
Which was where we came in.
Zabuza headed the operation and led the front-most group doing recon for the location Chino led us to finding her friends. It turned out that they were using an old Hot Water outpost that had fallen in disrepair. Which meant that it was well stationed just above the trees to watch incoming potential intruders, but it was also heavily water damaged and overgrown with weeds and roots which combined with less familiarity with the area meant they could probably find a way to break in using blind spots.
That was the theory, I had to wait behind with our guide slash kind of hostage and Suigetsu while the other three scounted.
“Man, I hope they hurry up.” Suigetsu sucked boredly on his smoothie as he kicked his feet from his position on a rock.
“Me too, what’s taking so long?” Chino said as she paced, “Were they captured, or got into a fight? Are my friends already dead?”
“That’s not likely. They want to still use you, so they’d keep them alive to hold as leverage.” Which was partially true. But she didn’t need the worry of me explaining they probably only needed one hostage.
“Assuming they got wind we killed that forward group. This is a good way out and the comms don’t reach that far.” Suigetsu added, “Really depends on who they got in charge. If it’s a smarter commander, they’d want to keep every advantage they can. If it’s not…”
“If it’s not.” Chino glared at him for an answer. He didn’t give it, he just shrugged.
“Can’t predict stupid.”
“Which is why they’re scouting.” I tried to reassure, “I don’t know what you were taught but this is pretty standard. A lot of actual ninja work is just waiting.”
“But it’s so nerve wracking.” She looked upwards, “They could be dead already.”
“Well if they were, then us rushing in wouldn’t change that, would it?” Suigetsu pointed out.
I gave him a flat look as Chino started to spiral again, “Look, this is preparation and precaution. These ninja probably specialize in hunting and assassinations, which means they’d specialize in ambush tactics so they’d be prepared for it if we just rushed headlong in. So we just have to wait until they get back, then we ca-”
A whoosh cut me off as Chojuro landed next to me. “Okay, we’ve got everything into-”
I held the blade up against his neck and said, “Coming out of my cage and I’ve been feeling just fine.”
“Gotta gotta be damned, because I want it all.” He finished the line before stepping back.
“Anyway, in position. Are we ready?”
We exchanged looks before nodding. It was time to get this show on the road.
We held positions in three corners of the compound while Zabuza, Suigetsu and Chino took out the guards. Chojuro and I had a much simpler task as we sat in the trees holding up the illusion.
It was a pretty simple illusion, just more trees, but it required some split focus as the air grew colder and the mist curled in slowly in the night. I didn’t turn around as the temperature continued to drop, but I could feel it as the ice plane formed behind me and a hand was set onto my shoulder. The thin fingers tapped out the code before the figure disappeared once more. I dropped to the ground and sat behind the tree as the illusion dropped and the show began.
There didn’t seem to be much of an upper limit to how many ice mirrors Haku could create if there was enough water in the air.
That couldn’t be more clear as I looked at the rows and rows of them that lined the trees and the darting shape of Haku moving between them as he threw hundreds of senbon into the base. Subtlety was out the window completely once this attack started because as soon as the guards noticed it was too late.
If the needles and our roaming forward team didn’t manage it, the following explosions did and the beauty of it was we didn’t even set them ourselves. Haku’s bombardment wasn’t for the sake of offense, it was a support tactic because traps didn’t distinguish between an actual invader or just a ton of metal being flung in that direction. This also helped by drawing out more of the inside shinobi who usually fell pretty quickly to the assault, a distraction and disarming maneuver all in one.
The entire affair lasted for maybe two minutes at most but when it was done the outside of the base looked like a giant pin cushion with the occasional chunk taken out where an explosive trap might have been sprung. While inside, well I could guess or, more specifically, I could hear.
A wooshing of hot water bursting out the doors followed by the bodies falling out of the deluge was a definite hint. Now that was a nice bit of preparation on our part as well. After all, this was the land of hot water and there were plenty of hot springs we could seal away and release all at once or get Suigetsu to use.
The waters carried out a good number of them, who Haku handily froze shortly after they were pushed out. This whole strategy made me wonder how many opportunities were missed by the seven families in terms of working together with this display. A Yuki and a Hozuki working in sync was a pretty damn devastating combination with very little set up. If the seven families ever got their heads out of their asses they might have actually been a much stronger force in the shinobi world.
Well, it didn’t mean we couldn’t use what we had effectively.
I peered out over the battlefield of our ambush, the figures with their expressions of shock literally frozen in place, and took a few cautious steps out to see where the others went.
And was basically slammed to the ground as Chojuro flickered into me.
“Stay in cover,” He huffed, “We don’t know if we got everything.”
I raised an eyebrow and tried to move when two arms shot out of the ground and wrapped around my torso.
My vision went brown as my head was pulled into the earth and I felt an arm wrapping around my neck. I tried bucking and twisting but the earth was pressing me in place even as the arms moved freely and I knew this was an earth jutsu at work. The earth pressed in closer as it felt like I was going even deeper and my air was more sparse. Shit, shit, shit!
Clenching my hand onto the arm, I made the sign for the one thing I thought would counter and focused on the words as best as I could as I pushed the current out through my khakri clothing.
Lighting Release: Shocking Touch
Electricity arced over my skin and all through my clothing, the dirt darkened over my eyes and grew warmer and heavier. Pressing into my body it felt like I was stuck between two coals but I kept the stream up as long as I could before my body tapped out and the jutsu dropped. My eyes were heavy as I tried to push through the charred broken earth, tried to find a way up when another arm grabbed onto mine and I seized up. Pushing another shock into it surprised me but also a familiar worry washed through which made me stop resisting enough for the arm to pull me up until I was out of the ground.
Chojuro’s face met mine as I breathed in fresh air and the dirt fell away. That presence, that aura gave me comfort until his face looked down at my hands and I followed only to start as I dropped the charred remains of the bit of arm I’d apparently thoroughly shocked of the person who tried to grab me.