Not Our Problem

The sun baked the sand beneath my feet, and I sat waiting. In the distance a dark-clothed youth raced across the desert, his forehead protector glinting occasionally as he closed in on our position. Keeping below the level of the dunes, our prey couldn't catch his mistake even were they looking in our direction. I made a mental note to correct his behavior when I had the time.

"The caravan is on it's way!" Fresh-faced and bright-eyed, Rikimaru was an eager young chuunin who'd just recently earned his vest. Like many taijutsu specialists, he was a loud young man entirely too concerned with head on fights and the clash of fist on fist instead of a stealthy kill. Then again, he had good reason... He was better than most jounin at hand to hand. He chattered about the guard, mentioning that there were only three Konoha ninja guarding it. "In fact, one of our opponents is just a genin!"

"A genin, huh?" I asked, peering in the direction of the approaching caravan, still obscured by the dune. That seemed very unlike Konoha's Hokage. While it was true that the hidden leaf's numbers were much lower than they had been in quite some time, guarding a caravan of that size should have been at least a B-rank mission. Tsunade had to know that, and she was never one to bet lives recklessly. "That doesn't make any sense."

"We can take them easily, sensei!" Kagura added, toying with her kunai. Like Rikimaru, Kagura had recently earned attained chuunin rank and was eager to prove herself. At just sixteen years old, she had a pretty good reason to feel confident, being talented with ranged tools as well as surpassing my own impressive abilities at genjutsu. She'd even developed a technique supposedly capable of fooling most doujutsu, though the use of the kage bunshins would leave her incapable of fighting effectively for days afterwards.

I was proud of my students. Most didn't make the rank these two had achieved until many years after graduation. They did it in four, all the while missing a third team member. The leaf-nin weren't the only ones who'd been devastated by our war.

"Let's take a look. Carefully," I decided, motioning for my two wards to follow me up the dune as we closed on the traders. It still didn't make sense. There was no way a genin should have been assigned a mission like this, even with a jounin teacher. It was pretty well known that the caravan carried a vital Iwagakure treasure, so it naturally followed that rock-nin would be coming to get it.

We crept towards the peak of a dune and I motioned for my subordinates to wait as I peeked overtop. In Rikimaru's defense, the three ninja guarding that caravan didn't really look all too impressive at first glance. The pink-haired girl with the red vest looked small and her chakra barely registered on my senses. A genjutsu type, probably. Likewise the black-haired kid didn't really look like much. He was probably a ninjutsu specialist with a kekkai genkai or some family secret, if the ink pad was any indication. Ninja wouldn't carry something like that in such a ready place unless it were meant to be used in combat.

The one who drew my attention was the blond kid with the bright orange jumpsuit. He was loud, his voice carrying up to where I lay at the top of the dune. At first I was ready to dismiss him, but I quickly discarded that thought. Loud ninja didn't live long if they weren't really good, especially wearing bright orange like that. He probably got into a lot more fights than he had to. The fact he was alive meant he'd won those fights, or at least done well enough to get away when he needed to run.

"That's the genin, sensei," Rikimaru muttered, now beside me. I ignored his presence and concentrated on the leaf-nin.

Something bothered me about the trio, though. They had all the appearance of crappy ninja. The blond and the pinkette were arguing back and forth, scarcely aware of their surroundings. The black haired punk was hardly better, as he seemed to find something funny about his bickering companions. By all appearances, I could have walked up behind all three and killed them without bothering to use meisaigakure no jutsu.

The problem was that crappy ninja wouldn't have been assigned a mission like this. Something about the blond's face was bugging me. Had I seen it before? I shifted forward a bit and felt my scrolls, bingo book, and kunai poke me in the belly.

Wait, that was it... The bingo book! Grabbing Rikimaru's leg, I hauled him from the top of the dune and pulled the bingo book out of my vest. I paged through the various entries until I stumbled across the blond's face, grinning up at me:

Uzumaki Naruto, Konohagakure genin


Note: Uzumaki Naruto is a powerful ninja from Konoha, despite his
rank. He has been documented as being one of the group who defeated
Momochi Zabuza, as well as fighting Orochimaru and various
members of the Akatsuki organization. Has been known to create
upwards of one thousand clones with Kage Bunshin no Jutsu.

Note: Uzumaki is the container for the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox,
and seems capable of summoning that chakra as needed.

I felt a cold sweat, staring at the entry. One thousand shadow clones? Fighting Akatsuki? The container of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox? We'd almost attacked this monster! Two chuunins and a tokubetsu jounin. That fight probably wouldn't have lasted terribly long. Brief and to the point probably would have covered it, in fact. What abilities did his companions possess, if they traveled with him?

"Let's go. This mission is over," I muttered to my comrades, sliding down the dune. Kagura wordlessly followed with a troubled look, while Rikimaru didn't bother to hide the outrage on his face.

"No way! We can beat those guys!" Rikimaru hissed, pointing at the dune separating us and our former target. Kagura nodded her agreement, clearly agitated. Instead of responding, I simply turned the bingo book to face them. Rikimaru's face froze in the middle of his cocky grin and Kagura's jaw dropped.

"This mission is over," I repeated, looking firmly at each of my subordinates. This time they didn't protest, and I saw the look of horror in their faces as they considered the entry. Even without the particulars, they knew that someone who had an entry in the bingo book wasn't someone they could handle.

"Good call, ossan," A low voice called jovially from the top of the dune. There stood Uzumaki Naruto, grinning. With a casual bound he landed in the middle of our trio; Rikimaru fell back on his ass and Kagura took a step back, brandishing her kunai. Instead of attacking, the young man seemed to be reading his bingo book entry.

"Hey! This thing's wrong!"" He shouted, and I winced. Without another word he snagged the book from my hands and produced a marker from his jacket, crossing out various words and writing in more. He then paged through and scribbled over another entry with a chuckle, then threw the book back to me. "There, it's fixed now!"

Without another word, he poofed out of existence. That had been a kage bunshin? Of course... If he could create a thousand clones at will, he probably had enough chakra to make one to do his dishes in the morning, let alone scout out a group observing the caravan under his eye.

"We're alive?" Kagura asked, collapsing on to her knees and dropping her Kunai. Rikimaru was still frozen, so I thumbed through my book to our visitor's entry:

Uzumaki Naruto, Konohagakure genin


Note: Uzumaki Naruto is a powerful ninja from Konoha, despite his
rank. He has been documented as being one of the group who defeated
Momochi Zabuza, as well as fighting beating! Orochimaru and various
members of the Akatsuki organization. Has been known to create
upwards of one 2! thousand clones with Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. I
also defeated Kakazu of Akatsuki, and the rest are going down soon!

Note: Uzumaki is also the container for the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox,
and seems capable of summoning that chakra as needed.

The ranking scale generally only goes to five, though I'm pretty sure he was just making that part up. No ninja has infinite power. I flipped to the entry in my bingo book for Kakazu, and sure enough Naruto had crossed out the notes and written "Loser" across the photo. I wordlessly tucked the book back in my vest.

"Sensei, what do we tell the Tsuchikage?" Rikimaru asked, slowly climbing to his feet. He was right, of course. We'd have to tell the Tsuchikage something. We'd just abandoned our mission without a fight. While we had no Will of Fire encouraging us to recklessly throw ourselves into battle with overwhelming odds, we still had our pride as Rock-nin to consider. Could we really give up without trying?

I put the bingo book back into my vest.

"Rikimaru, if the Tsuchikage wants to throw his life away fighting that monster, he's free to find this caravan and try to take the treasure himself," I responded, beginning to walk away. My subordinates followed, and we didn't look back.

Meisaigakure no Jutsu: This technique renders the user invisible to the naked eye. Taiseki and other rock-nin from Kakashi Gaiden uses this to try to kill Kakashi and Obito before the latter stabs him with his kunai.

Author's Notes:

This was just an interesting idea which occurred to me. Aside from a couple people in Konoha, Naruto doesn't seem to get any respect from anyone. This seems a little off to me, especially when you consider some of the things he's done. Zabuza was apparently well known and given that Tazuna named a bridge after him I can't imagine the story doesn't get told here and there to tourists. Likewise the fight with Gaara, who probably didn't keep it much of a secret that Naruto whooped his ass. That's not even getting into all the stuff Naruto gets up to in Part II, let alone the fillers and movies.

So it naturally occurred to me to explore that and I thought it'd be fun to write it from the perspective of the potential attackers.