The feeling of warm dog slobber on his face was one Kiba knew well. After wiping it off on his glove Kiba opened his eyes to find himself looking up at the sky. A sickly sweet smell of burnt sap filled his nostrils as he recalled the explosions that had knocked him out. Sitting up slowly he saw the trees surrounding him blown down nearly to their stumps.
"It's a clever technique don't you think?" Karui asked in a distracted tone.
Removing the small branches that had fallen on his legs Kiba finally stood up. The forest floor was covered in a thick layer of still smoking wood chips. The technique turned trees into grenades, and left little of the tree remaining.
"The damage from the wood splinters isn't so worrisome." Kiba said, "it's the concussive force of the explosion that hurts."
Looking down at his vest Kiba noticed several large splinters sticking into the armor. He removed them and turned toward Karui, who seemed to be reading a book.
"Did you get him?" He asked.
"No." She answered as she turned a page. "He got away using the rest of his bombs. Akamaru bit his leg, and got his scent so we can track him."
"And you let him get away? You should have placed a higher priority on taking out the danger than checking up on me." Kiba said, half joking in his tone.
She closed the book with her finger marking a page. Walking over to Kiba she stared up at his face. The stance and poise she carried herself with made her seem taller than she was, but face to face Kiba realized that she was markedly shorter than he. Her free hand reached up like lightning and grabbed him by his nose. As she yanked downwards Kiba felt his spine contort as his face was dragged down to waist level, it was all he could do to keep from falling over. Looking up at Karui from this position made him reassess his earlier observation regarding her height.
"Don't think too much of yourself." She said with a dead pan intonation.
Kiba landed on his back as his nose was released with a push. Landing on his back, Kiba once again found Karui sitting on one of the freshly made stumps reassuming her place in the book. The rustle led Akamaru to look up from his position on the ground, before the large dog lowered his head again.
"I decided not to pursue him for two reasons." Karui began without looking up from her book. "The first being that I can't communicate with Akamaru. He's a good ninken, but if I can't coordinate our actions then there's no point. Second, only an idiot would pursue someone without learning more about them."
Kiba's eyes focused on the green book she was reading. It had no writing on the cover, but it had a black ivy pattern on the outside.
"Is that a Bingo Book?"
"Yes, it's the Hidden Cloud's Bingo Book." She answered.
"Why didn't you list that as one of our assets when we started out." Kiba failed to suppress a hint of frustration at her withholding the information.
"Probably because I didn't figure the two of us would have time to go hunting random missing nin on our way back to civilization."
Akamaru barked from his place on the ground. With a smile Karui added,
"Sorry, the three of us."
Turning back to the book caused her face to sour. She grit her teeth as she nodded her head.
"I thought so. You bastard."
"Yeah. It's Hiroyuki, an old lecture teacher from Kumo's Academy. He was only part time because his focus was teaching explosives and their proper uses, though he was also well regarded for his traps and fire techniques."
"You'd think he'd be easier to recognize, his height is pretty distinctive."
"Last time I saw him was when I was ten. Back then he was taller than me so I didn't think anything of it. But yeah, he is pretty short."
"So what is he wanted for, any why do you think he attacked us?"
"Says here that he disappeared after an explosion killed two of his assistants at the chemical lab where he worked. Nobody figured it was him until it was discovered that across town an archivist was killed and a forbidden fire jutsu scroll stolen. His last known location was hitting up a foundry where he stole certain rare chemicals, most likely for new explosives. As for why he attacked us, I don't know."
"It seems suspect to me. A lab rat like him is more likely to be hidden away mixing powders than out on patrol attacking the first shinobi he comes across. Meaning there is a possibility that he's not alone out here."
"If he is alone. He's probably thinking we're a combination task force from Konoha and Kumo. He has already managed to get away once, but he can't risk staying here if there are any more than just the two of us so he'll leave at his first opportunity to avoid detection."
"On the other hand, if he's working with someone than that means that he was out on a regular patrol. Whatever they're doing up here could be compromised but they would stand a better chance of fighting off whoever is coming after them." Kiba ran his fingers through his hair before remembering the dog slobber that was still not quite dry on his glove.
"But after seeing Akamaru he knows that he can be tracked, so that means he might try to eliminate us rather than risk us getting away with his general location."
The atmosphere around them began to feel heavy. That westward wind, which had cleared the mist out of the valley died down and the sun setting behind the mountains immediately caused the air temperature to drop. Kiba could see the lake through the trees, a wall of cloud moving quickly across its surface towards them.
"Our options are simple." Kiba said, sighing between sentences, "If we move out now, we can probably lose Hiroyuki on the short term. But if he comes after us he will catch up because he almost certainly knows the area better than we do. Our other option is to track him down."
Akamaru stood up and barked.
"That's one vote for going after him."
Karui opened the Bingo Book again and closed it sharply.
"I never liked that guy anyways, he was a lousy teacher. But to be honest, it's his eight million ryo bounty that interests me. What do you say to a sixty-forty split, you and I?"
"You offer me the higher share?"
"You're the one who is going to track him down, that's worth ten percent."
"Well,' Kiba paused a moment, "we have to catch him first but it's a deal."
Kiba took off his glove and spit on his hand. Surprisingly Karui didn't hesitate to do the same and they clasp hands on the bargain.
As the fog rolled into the forest Kiba breathed deeply expecting his senses to dull, he was startled when they did not.
'Finally, something goes right for once.' He thought as he motioned for Akamaru to take point in tracking this Hiroyuki. In a quick glance to his side, Kiba saw an excited expression marked by a genuine grin on Karui's face. It was refreshing, to be honest.