"Just pass the scroll for Ibiki here. I'll have the next person bring it to T&I." The Hokage sounded like he had aged ten years since I had seen him in his office just hours earlier.
Numbly I passed him the two scrolls we had received downstairs for T&I. I licked my lips. My head felt light. My mouth felt very dry. What the fuck was going on? "So, we won't need a chunin on this mission? Just the three of us?"
That received some disapproving frowns from some of the others in the room and I think one man, a jonin with long brown hair tied in a low pony tail, seemed like he was going to speak up but the Hokage turned and glanced around the room. Instantly any and all disagreement was silenced. I glanced around the room at the assorted people—all of them were important enough to be here in the crisis of a village attack, but they all averted their eyes, shuffling their feet guilty.
"The village does not have the resources to send a chunin out with you right now. Nor do we have the time to hunt one down that will work well within your team dynamic. Besides, they wouldn't be able to utilize the past connection to the mist ninja. When he can be spared, your sensei will be sent to join you but for now the three of you will handle this." The Sandaime spoke bluntly and held eye contact with all of us intermittently as he spoke.
Dad stood in the corner of the room—he was never one to stand front and center and get all the attention, but I felt his presence more than anyone else in the room. As startled as I was to be receiving this mission, it hadn't really sunken in yet. I nodded along with the Hokages words, not really sure what I was feeling; my eyes were wide. I was sure that dad could tell all the implications however, and was not happy at all.
"Naruto-kun, use connections you made with the Yuki boy on the mission to Wave. Sasuke-san, do not use your Sharingan—you are still being hunted. This is the best way to keep you under cover without Orochimaru knowing where you are. Kageko-san, you have on your file that you have an interest in infiltration: you will lead this mission. Konoha needs allies for any impending battles to come and we will not find them in Iwa or Kumo." I held back an inappropriate giggle; I knew aid wasn't coming from Sand or Sound.
"Hai Hokage-sama." All three of us said together, giving a slight bow. He nodded, his face not relaxing, growing more serious as he continued:
"Use only the supplies you have on you and leave your forehead protectors in the village. If anyone asks, you will be assumed to have been killed in the attack." I felt my face spasm at that and Naruto sucked in a breath next to me. Sasuke stood stoically. "The rebels—the leadership of the rebels—will understand why you are not represented by a village. To the rest of the rabble you should look like unaffiliated ninja hoping for an opportunity.
"An ANBU will lead you out of the walls. You will be on your own from there."
I glanced again at the people in the room, trying to focus my breathing. I felt like I was about to have a panic attack but I hadn't ever had one of them in this life- the last time I had had one was in medical school before boards. I focused on my breathing and looked around the room, ignoring the grey around the edge of my vision. I could see an ANBU standing in the room, clearly part of the discussion, leaning over a map of the village . I could also see Danzo mingling among a few assorted jonin. The only person who hadn't made any kind of reaction to a single comment made by the hokage was dad, who stood apart from everyone.
It was silent for a moment and I realized they were waiting on us, on team 7, to do something. And team 7 was waiting on me. I reached for my arm and untied my forehead protector, giving a sharp tug on the knot. It came untied after a moment of protest. Although I took it off often, every time I showered or changed clothes, knowing that I wouldn't be putting it back on made it feel like I was losing a part of my identity. Besides me, I felt more than saw my teammates doing the same. I stiffly passed it over to the Hokage.
"As you command, Hokage-sama." I mumbled, eyes on my hitai-ate.
"As you command, Hokage-same." Sasuke repeated the traditional phrase and also handed over his hitai-ate. Naruto seemed to struggle more, but also copied us, handing over the forehead protector.
"You better watch this carefully oji-chan. I worked really hard to get it and it means a lot-datebayo!" He said instead of the formal phrase. The hokage smiled kindly at him. I think I would've smiled too but there was too much nervous energy in my stomach broiling around to smile. I tried anyway, but I think it came out like a grimace. I glanced again at dad. He watched the scene; his eyes weren't particuraly focused on me, nor anyone on team 7. They seemed to see the whole room. I looked back at the Hokage. My anxiety was winding up.
The Hokage made a hand signal and an ANBU appeared in a flash of smoke from a shunshin, crouched low in subservience. "Lead this team to the broken eastern wall, where one of the invasion points is. Ensure no one sees them. Once you deliver them there, return to your post and forget what you saw." The ANBU inclined his head.
He led us to a window and he moved so quickly, I had no time to turn back and get one last glance at my dad, although I had time to wonder if dad finally changed his face. I took a deep breath and we were off, lanching ourselves out of the window and into the night. Out onto the trees and the broken homes surrounding the strategic point.
As we rushed across the village, the wind rushing over our ears, I shut my eyes for a moment and listened to the village; I heard civilians, and maybe ninja for all I knew, crying in the distance. Long mornfail wails and loud painful cries of agony. I heard explosions—either from cleanup or attack, I wasn't sure. I heard barks and yips of Inuzaka hounds patrolling. I heard ninja passing on the streets and in the air besides us. I heard the bark of commands and the clash of steel as we rushed into less stable areas of the village. It was the sound of unfamiliar and familiar all at once.
I took it all in and tried to memorize the noise. I ignored the smell- all of which was blood and soot and dust, but I did glance at the buildings. I tried to ignore the broken buildings. I looked at the Hokage monument. I looked at the academy and the tower, far in the distance. I looked at the homes and familiar architecture. I didn't know when I would see this again.
The journey took no time at all even though it was halfway across the village and what felt like the furthest wall from the hospital. Even though I had been distracted by my surroundings, I had still been chasing an ANBU in my chakra exhausted state and that meant we were hustling. We hopped down from the rooftops and landed at the base of the homes, walking silently to the bottom of the wall that surrounded the village.
The outer wall that encompassed the village protected us from attack- this travesty that had destroyed it was a horrible unforeseen circumstance. A giant summons was rare and to have multiple and used in such a way was unexpected. Snakes meant Orochimaru; he'd sunk very low to destroy the walls.
The thickness of the walls usually protected thm from being destroyed by even explosives. Huge chunks of rock and cement, along with the fossilized Hashirama trees built into the wall used as a structural support, had been blown down in large and small pieces. This teardown of the defense would take weeks if not months to repair. It was a major breach in defense. It was our best way out without being monitored. It left a mountain for us to climb that was larger than the academy building. Incredibly visable if we just hopped over it, even though that was the fastest way across. The stealthy way, walking over by slinking through shadows, would be more time consuming and more strenuous. Either way there was the concern of being attacked by an enemy- this was one of the entry points they'd used into the village. The ANBU gestured for us to leave when we stood staring at the rocks. I frowned at him.
"No way. Orders were to lead us outsideof the walls. Show us the best way out without being seen please. I'm too fucking tired to think straight and that makes this your job for now." I had no patience for this right now. I was about to leave on a mission that was going to leave us fucking high and dry and he was trying to skimp on his orders? Fuck that- do your job all the way. Being lazy was my job.
Seeming annoyed, the ANBU paused too look up at the pile of rocks. He seemed caught in the same dilemma I had just been thinking over. After a moment, he led us up the pile of destroyed outer wall. He chose to walk it, which was annoying but understandable. We followed in a line behind him, sticking to the shadows beneath the broken pieces of wall whenever possible. We followed step for step whenever possible, just in case there were any traps left on the wall.
I was grateful for the older ninja's presence once we'd reached the top of the wall; I don't think I had the energy to respond to a threat anymore. Certainly not the smooth reaction that the ANBU had anyway. From the ground, a seemingly dead body launched itself upright and jumped at the ANBU. Not because, I thought, he was the biggest threat, but only because he was the first in our line. The ninja swiftly pulled out two shuriken and launched them at the charging man, while also pivoting so that the sand ninja missed his mark. The sand ninja didn't stand a chance, the shuriken cutting deep into his throat and one of his eyes. Not an instant death, but it would only be a few moments. Impressive aim for a startled throw. I glanced at the soon to be body; a teenager no older then 15. He was probably a life time genin or a shitty chunin to have died to easily.
What a waste.
I nodded in thanks to the ANBU and signaled to Naruto and Sasuke. We hopped down the broken wall, leaving our guide at the top to watch us leave.
Knowing that the Sand ninja had left boobytrapped bodies in the past wars, as well as just having been attacked by a ninja faking his own death, I knew that we needed to get out of range of where the potential threats could be. I also knew that the three of us were running on fumes.
There hadn't been any time to communicate any of this though- first we had sprinted from the hospital to the wall. The silence demanded from sneaking out of the village also wasn't exactly conducive to conversation. And now we were in a very dangerous and precarious situation we needed to get the fuck out of.
I quickly took us into the trees, then as far up into the trees as we could go. Once we were up in the trees, I felt a little more comfortable. Leaf ninja hung out in trees. Sand ninja tended to stay in the forest floor. I'd noticed it during the exam and during the invasion. I didn't know what the fuck sound ninja did. We'd killed both groups in the invasion earlier today.
Once we were high enough in the canopy, I glanced above us and imprinted the sky in my mind. I quickly did some mental calculations and then signaled a quick pause. My teammates warily stopped.
"If we need to find our person- ice boy-I think we should retrace our steps. That's the safest place at the moment as well. And bridge builder owes us so we'd have a base." I would like to think I was talking in code, but I was so tired that I genuinely was having trouble remember everyone's names.
"That hut?" Sasuke said with a raised eyebrow, referring to Tazuna's house.
"No! Well, yes, his place too, but I was thinking the village. It is more open now with the new trade routes that should have been established. And I can't imagine those two were there in that godforsaken place for no reason…" I explained.
Naruto nodded his head thoughtfully. "I think it's a long trip right now. All of are tired right now, even me. But I agree it's a good place to aim for: we need to work on trade routes, we can at least startsomewhere." He pointed out.
"And we need to leave fire country. Like yesterday." I responded.
"And we can work on going there tomorrow. But if we do it tonight and get attacked tomorrow we will be in a worse off state then if we are still in fire country but further from the village." Naruto wheedled.
Sasuke nodded in agreement. I sighed, then acquiesced. "You're both right. It's just shit either way. Let's at least start the way- it should be the wrong direction for the fighters which means hopefully less patrols and less chance of being spotted- either by the enemy or Konoha."
Both boys startled at that and I frowned at them. "Infiltration mission—we had to sneak out of the village and give up our forehead protector? For all intents and purposes this mission needs to seemunsanctioned by the village no matter that it came from the mouth of the Hokage. We can't let anyone see us nor can we expect help even from our own village."
"Right." Naruto bit his lip. "I got that earlier. It just…."
Sasuke frowned as well, "Hn."
Falling into silence, I signaled them with the standard Konoha sign and directed them towards Wave.
We ran in a tired silence until I felt myself start to slip on my landings. I didn't have enough chakra to hold myself to branch as I was landing. Nor enough to cycle through my muscles for proper tree hopping. I was shivering, the cold of chakra exhaustion which had been lingering on the edges of my mind for hours now a startling reality. I motioned for Naruto to check for anyone around us and for Sasuke to look for a good place to sleep. I had the best night vision, but I readily acknowledged that I was useless at the moment. I instead crouched on my tree branch, tucking my hands in my armpits and hugging myself for warmth while my teammaetes searched for somewhere to bed down. Sasuke quickly found us a outcropping of rocks next to a set of bushes that would be good for protection on our backs and coverage from immediate sight.
Naruto offered first watch. I was too tired to argue and instead asked for 3rd. Sasuke nodded in agreement, which meant he would have 2nd. I wanted the solid nights sleep. None of us bothered to take out anything from the severely under packed packs we had on us- we had just removed most of our 'useless supplies' the day before our patrol assignment. I didn't need a bed to sleep right now.
It was unfortunate timing-we had spent the day before our sentry mission clearing our bags out of everything useless and preparing ourselves to travel more lightly. All of the surplus equipment that we had removed was really only surplus for regular missions. Missions like this that would be going for potentially months at a time would require lots of extra and useless garbage; some for supplies and some to sell for extra cash. That was a resource we no longer had have. We also were short the rations, medicine, and other health supplies like bandages and saline, that I hadn't had time to restock. I wish I had taken the time to run through the Nara stores and shoved every bit of medicine I could find in my bag. Every bandage and every chakra pill. Every ration bar.
All of these thoughts raced through my head as I shut my eyes on the hard earth floor. Then I forced them to side and sleep overcame. And blissfully I knew no more.
We slept through the day and kept up the same hard pace the next night. It was grueling, but nowhere near the same pace that we'd managed the on the journey back to the village back with Kakashi sensei. We were all to sore, mentally worn out, and most importantly chakra exhausted to keep up the speed.
The boys matched me. While I had the quickest speed of all of us, I had the lowest endurance and I'd used too much chakra in the village. I was the one holding us back from running as quickly, causing us to take frequent breaks. Neither complained however. The breaks allowed for us to discuss what we were planning on doing once we actually go to Wave.
I admitted I had little to no idea. The Hokage had given us next to nothing to work with other then the mission objectives, "Establish a new government in Kiri, Ensure favorable opinion to Konoha through shipping and trade routes by civilians, Form the basis of a treaty between the new government of Kiri and Konoha."
"This is gonna be fucking impossible." I sighed. "If this is the kind of bullshit mission my dad gets, no wonder Nara's are always bitching about 'troublesome this' and 'troublesome that'. I didn't know the meaning of the word before this."
Sasuke rolled his eyes at the dramatics. Naruto snickered, but spoke up. "How deep in cover do we need to be? Disguises? Different names?"
"Henge?" Sasuke asked, looking between us. I frowned, shaking my head.
"Unfortunately, no. Infiltration missions take weeks to months to years. Most commonly months. You can't reliably use a henge without fudging up the details. Especially around other ninja. It'll have to be physical disguises."
Sasuke blanched. "Months?"
I frowned in agreement. "Pretty bullshit. We have spent more time out of the village since we became genin then have inside of the walls. Or at least it feels that way."
Naruto clapped his hands to get our attention. "Guys, guys, guys! Come on! Its not like we have a choice! I don't want to be here either but the old man wouldn't have assigned it to us if he didn't think it wasn't important for the village—"
"Come off it, Naruto." I snapped, annoyed. "I'm more than happy to do what needs to be don't for the village but I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in weeks, have been out of the village for weeks at a time, got to see my family for all of a few hours and now they're gonna think I'm dead. If they're even alive but the only person I knowis alive is my dad and Uncle Inochi. Shikamaru was in the stadium along with my mom, cousins, aunts, and uncles. And all of our friends as well! I can care about how important this mission is and still think its supremely unfair that 3 genin with no chunin or jonin was sent as support to fucking topple a hidden village."
I seethed after I finished my rant. Then, still annoyed, not really at my teammate, and not really at the hokage, not really at anyone, more just angry, I got up and moved towards the empty space and started working through one of my katas.
Sasuke and Naruto eyed me warily, then Sasuke moved towards Naruto and started speaking to him in a soft undertone. After a moment, Naruto started nodding along to whatever he was saying.
After a few moments of stilted silence in the clearing, I felt my head had cleared enough to get over myself. I paused my kata midway through and turned, pulling myself into a half bow of apology to Naruto.
"My apologies." I said stiffly. "I let the stress of everything get to me, but you are my teammate and I am not used to not having Kakashi sensei here to mediate. Which isn't right, but…I will try to do better."
Naruto also gave a slight apology. "It's my fault too. I'm really nervous about everyone back home but I figure the best thing we can do is just our best on this mission. Otherwise, why would the Hokage have assigned it, datebayo? So, it's my way of trying to stay positive. But I guess, I can see why it can be too much at the moment." He gave a slight chuckle of self-depreciation.
His comment, clearly from Sasuke's explanation, along with his own action of running his hand behind his head as he talked gave me a sudden pang of homesickness I hadn't been expecting. I nodded my head quickly.
"Thank you both for being so understanding. Let's finish this stupid, impossible mission quickly and get back home asap."
"You got it!"
I turned around, and tiredly led them back into the trees, ending our break and beginning our trip Wave again, blinking back tears as I wondered how my best friend had weathered the invasion. I hadn't seen Shisui, really seenhim, in months now.
And all I could think of was how if he was right next to me, I would ask him how he could be so good at leading teams. I would tell him I was so shittyat it. I would tell him about the forest of death and now- how twice I had argued with my team over inconsequential stuff right in the middle of a mission when I was supposed to be leading. And he would laugh and tug on my pony tail and tell me some stupid advice that I would make fun of him for, but also would totally use, because duhShisui told me to do it so of course it would work.
But I couldn't do that right now. And I could imagine all the actions he would take. But I was never good at imagining what Shisui would say. I didn't know what the advice he was giving me was from so far away- I yearned for my best friend to be right her to tell me what to do and what to say so that I would mess this mission up so badly…so that all of team 7 could get home safely.
I needed to be a good leader and I had no idea how to do that and no one to ask for help. I was all alone in my head as we ran in the woods. And as we ran, I had to keep pushing back the thought: He's gonna think that I'm dead. He's gonna think that I'm dead. He's gonna think that I'm dead.
Once we were near enough the bridge, I voted we take a full day to do nothing but recover. My chakra was still hovering between dangerously low and near empty so I was almost useless in a fight. Naruto, while having chakra, looked emotionally spent. Sasuke kept everything bottled but seemed to have no complaints. I received unanimous agreement from Sasuke and Naruto, which was good because we needed to start to actually plan.
We all found a respectable hiding spot, this one near a natural waterfall, which meant it was wet, loud, and free of most wild animals. Thankfully for the time of year, nothing was burrowing so we didn't have to worry about wandering into a sleeping bears cave. Still, better to be safe than sorry. I left the boys to set up an actual camp for once, pulling out bed rolls and everything, while I went out and hunted down our dinner.
We agreed that ration bars needed to be saved; as such, we were hunting as much as possible. Thankfully, the training with Kakashi sensei had prepared us for this outing. We were able to make a camp, cook our dinner using local herbs found around us (or if needed sparingly from our packs) and then break the camps with minimal to no signs we'd been there.
We'd also been able to train ourselves with Kakashi into 4 hour intervals of sleep. That was regardless of whether or not you were the person on watch, which meant if you weren't, you just rolled over and went back to sleep.
It had seemed like something for chunin and jonin missions then. Honestly it still seemed extraneous for genin training. However, I was grateful our teacher was so thorough, as it provided this preparation.
I arrived back with the captured birds- 4 of them, sea birds which meant they were larger but also that they would be slightly stringy. I grimaced at the thought. I wish I had just fished but I had seen the birds and they were easier and quicker than waiting for my line to get tugged. The faster I caught the birds, the faster we could sleep.
Sasuke had set a smokeless fire near the entrance of the cave that I blissfully sat near on a dry log that Naruto had dragged from somewhere. This was the homiest camp we'd been at in weeks- Kakashi preferred we just sit in the dirt with no fire- and I appreciated the little touches. I quickly set up the birds over a spit on the fire, then motioned for Naruto to take over. He grinned at me, never minding the job of being responsible for food, and I grinned back before I tiredly got up to go dig a latrine pit.
"I already had a clone do it." Naruto said. I nodded gratefully and dropped back into my seated position.
"We never finished our discussion before because I lost my temper." I said thoughtfully. Sasuke looked up from where he was taking stock of his bag.
"Discussion?" He questioned.
"On disguises." I answered patiently. Sasuke frowned, recalling the details.
"So no henge…" he mumbled.
Naruto frowned and crossed his arms. "We don't need to use henge. I'm good with disguises, datebayo!"
"I do believe it Naruto. What do you think we can do that will make us all non-standout. Start with Sasuke. Cheap, easy to maintain, "
We both turned to look at our third teammate who fidgeted under the attention. "Well he needs to not look like the teme. He has on his clan symbol. That's got to go."
I nodded in agreement. "We should probably dress you in a color other than blue Sasuke. Maybe an earthy green? Something that you wouldn't expect to see an Uchiha in."
Naruto stood up and then walked around the still sitting Sasuke, tilting his head this way, than that. "It's more than just a color though. Or just the symbol. Its also his profile. You can see who he is based on the way he stands, based on the way he talks…"
There was a long pause. I stared thoughtfully at Sasuke as well. "There might not be anything we could do about that other than just change his clothes. Some of that is just in his pedigree; ya know, the way he was raised?"
Sasuke looked supremely uncomfortable with being analyzed like this. "If we could just move on to one of you guys now…" He said, trying to slide the attention off of himself.
Naruto froze then looked at me. "What if we shave his head. He'll look like a monk, but it will fit with the whole silent and only interested in training thing."
I also froze. "Naruto I don't know about that." I looked at Sasuke trying to imagine it.
"Sasuke, there isn't really a choice in this." I argued.
"Literally two seconds ago, you were telling Naruto you weren't sure about this. Don't play both sides. This mission is going to be hard enough. I can hold a henge for two months solid. I am notshaving off my hair." Suddenly Sasuke was standing, Sharingan flaring, his chest up against Naruto's.
I stared at them. Sasuke had kept his cool through literally everything so far- through the invasion, through being essentially kicked out of our village, being disavowed and told everyone would think we were dead. It was almost sad to see this is where he drew the line.
I still couldn't have this kind of dissent in our identities.
"Sasuke if you agree to cut your hair, you get to burn everything that Naruto is wearing that is orange, pick his new clothes, and pick his new name." I blurted out. "Naruto, you will get to pick out Sasuke's new clothes, but not his new name because losing you hair is worse then anything else we're going though."
Both of them stopped arguing for a moment and contemplated this.
"What about you?" Sasuke turned sharply in my direction.
I shrugged. "honestly, I have to stay a girl- makes the most sense for me in case puberty strikes and get boobs all of a sudden; not likely but a possibility. As such I'm keeping my hair but I'll need to use a low pony tail for it so I'm not recognized as a Nara. Otherwise, you guys can pick everything out. I'm not bothered."
"One Kumo parent to one Iwa parent." Naruto said, immediately creating back story for me. "You look like Kumo ninja from the movies. And I look like an Iwa ninja you said. We can all be Iwa ninja that ran away. Wave is far from Iwa right? No one from Iwa will look for us but Konoha will leave academy dropouts alone from a different village, datebayo!"
He excitedly hopped up at the cover story he built. I shrugged, rolling it around in my head and not disliking it. "It works for me. Sasuke?"
"Works for me." He looked disgruntled at being an academy dropout from Iwa. I smirked at him. Alright. Naruto, you're gonna need to build up our backstories. Starting tomorrow we need to gather information. Once we have solid info, we start planning to—"
"What rank mission would you say this is?" Naruto interrupted me. "Only cause, our first mission outside the village was a C rank but that was really an A rank. And then our second mission was a B rank but then everything was called an S rank secret when we got back because of the whole potential invasion that was really an invasion thing."
I grabbed one of the birds and said thanks as Sasuke handed them out to us. We left one on the coals to keep warm, while listening in bewilderment to Naruto. He wasn't wrong- we actually had a really blank record for genin as well. To be completely honest this just proved how out of realm we were for this mission.
"but yea." Naruto continued. "I was just wondering, what ranking this mission would have and then what ranking it would actuallyhave, you know?"
"Uhm." I didn't know how to answer that. "I'm not sure how to answer that."
I turned to Sasuke for help. He shrugged. "Every mission we take goes to pot. We can take our time planning and being careful relying on each other but I guarantee that something is going to happen outside of our control that is going to screw it all up."
I shrugged, not disagreeing. "The best laid plans of mice and men."
They both blinked at me. "What does that mean?"
I shrugged again. "You know how it goes."
Yo yo yo, I'm back. Story has been planned out in more detail so I can continue writing. I have the next arc planned and then some in detail although I have always had a general plan for the story-This has always been the general plan alllllll the way back from the beginning of the story when I said it wasn't staying canon so don't stress. It just took me a really long time to finally stray away from canon. But it was happening! Piece by piece! But yea, we're going back to Wave. Yay! Sorry for some of the angst. I like to think that under the pressure of lack of sleep, killing people, and stress of being kicked out of your home, no one would be doing well. So all three of team 7 are not doing so great at the moment. For any and all spelling and grammar mistakes, I apologize. I have no beta and do have dyslexia so I apologize in advance. I rushed to get this out now that I finally have time to write.
Let me know what you think, comment review or message.
Thanks for all the love while I was working on this and sorry it took so long, life got in the way :(