Having been informed as much as they could have, and being told of Marunomi’s last known whereabouts, Temari and the others were led outside of Lady Sushi’s estate.
“I’m very sorry,” said Mochi. “Lady Sushi usually isn’t like that. It’s just…she really did care for Marunomi, you know. She’s so upset by this whole thing, she’s just, well…let herself go.”
“It’s alright. We understand,” Temari said.
Mochi nodded. She then trembled for a moment, seeming to be on the verge of tears. “I beg you, please,” she said. “You must stop Marunomi.”
Temari nodded. “We’re on it,” she said. She turned to her squad mates. “Alright, team, let’s go!”
They all nodded and with that they were off in a flash.
The group headed to the outskirts of the village where Marunomi had last been seen. They scouted the area, progressing further outwards, and, indeed, they did find traces of human activity. Broken branches, stray hairs, boot prints, but nothing that could give them a definitive location of her current whereabouts.
“Hinata,” Temari said. “Use your Byakugan and see if you can find anybody or anything nearby.”
Hinata nodded and complied. She activated her Byakugan and surveyed the area, checking different directions at different distances. Finally, she found a strange pillar-like structure that had chakra coursing through it.
“I found something,” Hinata said. “I don’t see any people, but there’s some strange structure emitting chakra energy about one-and-a-half kilometers from here.”
“Let’s go check it out,” Temari said. “Be careful everyone.”
With their quick speed, they were at the pillar in a matter of minutes. They gathered around and inspected the structure that glowed and hummed with some strange energy.
“What the heck is this thing?” Sakura said.
“Hmm…” Temari contemplated. “Ino, you can use sensory jutsu, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” Ino said nodding affirmatively.
“See if you can get a bead on what kind of chakra is running through this thing.”
Ino complied and focused her mind and chakra on analyzing the pillar before her. After several seconds, she stopped.
“It’s strange,” Ino said. “I’ve never felt any chakra like this before. But, one thing I can say, it’s very powerful.”
The others were a bit unnerved by Ino’s words. Temari thought for a moment and then turned to Hinata.
“Hinata,” she said. “Use your Byakugan again. See if you can find any other structures like this.”
Hinata complied and used her Byakugan to search as far and wide as she could.
“What makes you think there will be more of these?” Tenten asked Temari.
“It’s the markings on the pillar,” Temari answered. “They indicate this is only one in a series. I don’t know for sure what these pillars are for, but I have a suspicion. And If I’m correct, then that village is in a lot of trouble.”
“I found something!” Hinata yelled.
“What is it?” Ino asked.
“There are six other pillars, all around the village,” Hinata said. “And there’s a person right next to one of them, about four kilometers from here!”
“Let’s go! We need to hurry!” Temari said without any hesitation. “Hinata, use your Byakugan to lead the way, and be sure we stay outside the perimeter of the pillars.”
With that, they were off, traveling as fast as they possibly. They all felt a sinking feeling of dread, like something awful was about to happen.
This was it. The final pillar was in place and completely energized. All Marunomi had to do now was activate the jutsu and the village would be hers. All those fools who could never live up to her expectations, who could never appreciate her vision, who glutted themselves without any regard for the greater power that was out there; soon they would all be gone. But, at the very least, they would make good chakra.
Of course, there was the matter of the five interlopers, and they would be arriving soon. No matter; she would take care of them as well.
Without further ado, she formed the hand seals necessary to invoke the jutsu. A powerful energy coursed through her body and, with a mighty roar, she yelled.
“MELTING POT NO JUTSU!”
Temari and the others were about a kilometer away from Marunomi when, suddenly, seven beams of light shot up into the sky. The lights converged right above the center of the village. After that, a force field formed in the spaces between the lights, creating a giant dome that covered the village. The group looked on as a portion of the dome formed a few feet away from them.
“My god. What the hell is this?” Ino said.
“Come on, we need to hurry!” Temari said, turning straight ahead. The others did likewise and picked up the pace.
It was even more glorious than Marunomi could have imaged. She could imagine now all the frightened and confused villagers. All that delicious fear. All that delicious chakra. But that would have to wait. Right now, she had some uninvited guests to attend to.
On cue, Temari and the others emerged from the forest and appeared before Marunomi. It was their first time finally getting a look at their adversary. Surprisingly, Marunomi was a rather domineering and, daresay, attractive-looking woman. Lady Sushi had said that Marunomi never gained an ounce, no matter how much she ate, and that appeared to be the case. Or, rather, it seemed that the weight had been distributed to all the right places, as indicated by her supple curves and very impressive chest. And it seemed she had no reservations in showing it off as her body was covered in only a breast band, a short skirt, a pair of gloves, and standard sandals. But, regardless of how she looked, she was still their enemy, and they would have to stop her.
“Marunomi, I presume?” Temari said.
“Hmm, and you must be the Leaf and Sand lapdogs summoned by Lady Sushi,” Marunomi replied.
“What is this thing?!” Sakura yelled. “What have you done to the village?!”
“Oh, this?” Marunomi said. “It’s nothing. I was just helping myself to a little snack is all.”
“What?” Sakura said angrily
Marunomi chuckled, patting the side of the dome. “It’s a beauty, isn’t it? I call it the Melting Pot. Right now this dome is sending out waves of chakra energy throughout all the space inside it. Soon the chakra waves will permeate the bodies of everyone in the village, slowly weakening and turning them into pure chakra. Once it’s done, I’ll stroll right in and have myself a little feast, feeding on all of that wonderful tasty chakra.”
“You monster,” Sakura said.
Marunomi chuckled again. “Something interesting about chakra,” she said. “The more body mass a person, the more chakra this jutsu can extract from them. So, in a way, it’s like this entire village has been fattening itself up for me this whole time. How ironic. The village most famous for its cuisine will itself become the world’s greatest cuisine.”
“You really think you can get away with this?!” Ino yelled. “Even if you defeat us, the other villages will chase you down! I mean, what is it you want?”
“Want?” Marunomi mimicked. “I’m just a woman of simple desires. Simple carnal desires. I was born with an endless hunger and I want to sate that hunger however I can. Yes, I’m sure there are those who will try to stop me, but once I’ve consumed and absorbed enough chakra there won’t be anyone who can stop me. After that, the world will be my buffet. I’ll be free to choose and devour whatever villages I please.”
Truly, they were staring in the face of a madwoman. Temari contemplated the best course of action, while the others awaited her instruction.
“Temari,” Tenten said. “Isn’t that the Behemoth’s Tongue on her arm?” She pointed to the device on Marunomi’s arm, the same one she had used to energize the pillars. Temari spotted it; an odd gauntlet-like item that had an open chamber jutting from the side of it. She knew it had to be it.
Marunomi spotted them eyeing the device and then held it up for all of them to see.
“Oh, you want this, don’t you?” she said. “I bet Lady Sushi told you to get it back from me. Well, if this is what you want…”
Suddenly, she brought her hand down and a puff of smoke appeared in front of her. She then reappeared at the top of a distant tree.
“You’ll just have to come and get me!” she yelled. “Oh, and you’re free to try and save the villagers if you want, but, just so you know, you’ll have to destroy all the pillars!”
Marunomi then retreated into the woods.
“Dammit!” Ino yelled. “What do we do?!”
Thinking quickly, Temari knew that they had to chase down Marunomi, but they also had to save the village. Thus, she decided that two of her squad mates should accompany her in tracking Marunomi, while the other two would destroy the pillars.
*Who will destroy the pillars?