Asami had what was, in theory, a simple task on her hands. The city of Raimei no Seiko was having some issues with a bear or lion or wolf; the descriptions weren’t very consistent, but the overall message was clear. One of the heartland’s monsters had ventured into the city and was making itself a persistent, but seemingly harmless issue for its civilians. Her superiors seemed to think it was the perfect job for a junior shinobi. There was little to no chance of a fight, and she could be in and out of the area in two days, if she was quick about it. Oddly enough, the journey to and from her destination was predicted to be the most dangerous part of the job.
She’d heard stories about Cloud Country’s wilds. Who hadn’t? Even as a child, she’d been warned to stay away from Kumo’s forests, for the beasts within were all too happy for fresh and easy meat. Supposedly, a genin would have no problem fighting most of the Heartland’s predators, and would be able to flee from the worst of them, but she didn’t feel too convinced. For one, the never-ending overgrowth provided too much cover, and too many places for a creature to sneak up on her. She could’ve sworn she’d seen the same pair of eyes through the bushes on three separate occasions. The administration probably wasn’t aware of her skills – or lack thereof. She’d managed to learn a small arsenal of jutsu, but constantly avoiding classes meant that her actual combat skills were below par. Most creatures didn’t take well to fire, but landing the flames while avoiding injury herself would prove difficult. She would rather not try to test her skills against some wild freak of an animal. Besides, she’d already had to fight for her life in darkness once before. It’d been unpleasant, and she was in no rush to experience it again.
The sun’s rays poking through the mass of trees told that it was late afternoon, at best. Her destination was nowhere in sight, and while she felt fairly confident that she was going in the right direction, she didn’t want to risk spending a night in the wilds. Her survival training was basic, and more suited to the harsh snowstorms of the mountains than the lush grasslands that made up her environment. Again, a trial by fire wasn’t how she wanted to check her capabilities.
She could guess the time, but the forest around her stopped her from even guessing how far she had to go, much to her chagrin. On the other hand, none of its many, many creatures had tried their luck with her yet; as her research had suggested, most of the biggest creatures were either herbivores or unwilling to try their luck with a human. For the time being, it seemed that she would be safe as long as she kept to the path, in the loosest sense of the word. The trail was simply a section of flat land carved out by trampling travellers over the years, mostly covered on both sides by overgrowth. It was no surprise that she felt like she was on alert, keeping her eyes and ears open for any would-be attackers.
She continued on her path for a few more minutes before she decided to come to a halt. Her gaze moved to the trees above. It had been but a few months since she had started taking the shinobi life seriously, which made her all too aware of the skills it had granted her. At a mere glance she could map a journey, from her place to the ground to a branch a dozen metres up, and feel confident that she could make it up there. And so she did, bounding from ground to bark, using chakra control to give her a steadier footing before the next leap. Before long, she was barely above the thicket, but enough so to confirm her suspicions. The sun was low in the sky, and she couldn’t see any distinctive glimpses of silver in the distance. She was either hopelessly lost, or she still had quite a ways to go. She hopped down from the tree and picked up the pace, desperately hoping it was the latter.
Half an hour passed, with no end to her journey in sight. She traversed through an area where the grass barely grew over a foot tall, and the trees allowed for more rays of sunlight – a constant reminder of her deadline. It didn’t help when the path was interrupted, drawing her to a halt. Asami knew a shrine when she saw it, but what on earth was such a small one doing in the middle of the heartlands? “It doesn’t matter,” she whispered to herself. “Have to keep moving.” Her spirits were low, but her voice hinted at her resilience. She knew how much worse things would get if she gave in to despair, after all. She allowed her fingers to glide against the base of the shrine as she walked past, continuing to search for the metal city.