Falling into Place
Kakashi motioned with his hand to the two mysterious ninja tied to the tree. One of them, barely conscious, glared at the Jonin out of the corner of his eyes with such murderous intent that it made Ichigo shudder. It’s a good thing that Kakashi-sensei was here, she thought. I don’t think we could have fought them off. But why did they attack us? she thought, turning to the Jonin as he began his explanation.
“These two are Chunin from the Village Hidden in the Mist,” Kakashi began, motioning to the wavy pattern engraved on their ninja headbands. “They’re known to be ruthless, and to keep fighting no matter what.” The Hidden Mist ninja growled slightly at Kakashi, his eyes narrowing.
“How did you read our movements?” He asked lowly, and the Jonin shrugged the question off as if it were common sense.
“It’s a very sunny day,” he answered, motioning up to the bright sun in the blue sky above them. “Also, it hasn’t rained in several days. The water puddle the pair of you were hiding in shouldn’t have existed.” The way he puts it, it sounds laughably simple, but none of us picked up on that… Ichigo thought glumly, looking at the other three Genin. Tazuna frowned slightly, stepping forward.
“If you knew that they were there, then why did you let the brats fight?” he asked with a small snort.
“I had to know who they were after,” Kakashi answered simply, turning to him and putting his hands in his pockets. “Were they after us… Or you?” Tazuna flinched slightly, and Ichigo narrowed her eyes as the pieces began to come together in her mind. “We weren’t told that you were being hunted by ninjas; we were told to protect you from common thieves and gangs. This mission has been upgraded to at least a B-rank, which is notoriously expensive. I’m sure you have your reasons for lying, but we are now operating outside of our duties,” he explained carefully.
“This is way out of our league! Let’s just quit now,” Sakura added, looking anxious. “Besides, Naruto needs medicine for his wound! We need to take him to a doctor!” As Kakashi contemplated, Naruto looked as if he were growing more and more panicked. Ichigo remained quiet, but inside she felt a growing discomfort. If we leave Tazuna, who will protect him? He probably can’t afford a B-rank mission… He may be grumpy, but he’s just an old man, and he’s desperate, Ichigo thought as she glanced over at Tazuna. Indeed, the man had slipped into an uncomfortable silence, and she saw sweat beading at the top of his forehead.
“I suppose that we should return to the village to treat Naruto,” Kakashi sighed, and Ichigo felt her heart sink. Right as she was about to object, however, Naruto grabbed his kunai knife and stabbed himself deeply in the hand, right where the ninja’s poisoned claws had cut him open. Everyone stared at him in shock, watching the blood splatter to the ground and trickle down his arm.
“Naruto! Are you crazy? What are you doing?” Sakura shouted, stepping forward. He ignored her, sniffling as he struggled internally with his own self-worth, and Ichigo felt sorry for him. He must feel so frustrated, being seen as someone who needs to be looked after. He just wants to be strong, she thought sadly. I understand, Naruto.
“With this kunai, I’ll protect the old man!” he swore, turning back to them with a determined expression. “We’re continuing this mission!”
Meanwhile, far from where the Hidden Leaf ninja stood deliberating their course of action, a small man stood before a group of kneeling Hidden Mist ninja. He had a scowl on his face, and was dressed in an expensive suit with his eyes shaded by thick glasses. A large man stood beside him, a bodyguard, and he pointed angrily at the giant man sitting before him.
“You failed?” the small man yelled furiously. “I hired you because I heard you were skilled. You can’t even kill a simple old man?” he snapped. The giant man snorted, grabbing the giant sword on his back and swinging it without effort to point it directly at the small man.
“Enough with your whining,” the man growled through the heavy taping around his mouth. “This time I’ll go… And I will kill them.” The small man swallowed nervously, very aware at the large blade pointed at his throat.
“Are you sure? With the failure of the Demon Brothers, they’ll be more cautious,” he warned, but the large swordsman seemed unfazed.
“Who do you think I am?” he huffed. “There’s a reason I’m called the Demon of the Mist, Zabuza Momochi.” With that he returned the mighty blade to its place on his back, and stood to leave. His hunt had begun.
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