When Naruto and Fu arrived on the outskirts of the village, they immediately knew something was wrong. The village, which was bustling and loud on just a few hours earlier, was silent. No music, yells, laughter. Nothing.
"What happened?" asked Fu.
"I don't know," admitted Naruto. At the speed the duo was traveling, he thought they would arrive in time to help form a defense. Could they have already been too late?
When there were no more trees, they hopped to the ground and ran towards the village. A few quick dashes and they could see the streets and all the decorations for the festival. And several people lying on the ground.
Fu ran ahead, ignoring Naruto's protests. He groaned and followed her.
And people say I rush forward blindly, he thought.
He caught up to Fu checking the pulse on a young child. She looked up at him. "He's alive, but looks like he's been heavily sedated."
"They're all asleep?" he asked. Looking around, he didn't seen any signs of a battle. No scuff marks on the ground and blood in the dirt or on the victim's clothes.
"So what is this? I'm guessing it's not some sort of festival game?"
"It's not," Fu said as she rolled the child into a comfortable sleeping position. "Whoever did this wanted the villagers alive, but I'm not sure why."
"Why not kill them?" asked Naruto.
Fu shook her head at his question, not knowing the answer either. "We should keep moving."
Naruto nodded and they ran towards the Great Tree.
"But why, Dad? Why do you need to do this?" asked a worried Shibuki. He was watching his father strap on his battle armor while one of his ANBU stood guard. The three shinobi where in a special room built inside the Tree. It was a fortified bunker along with several tunnels, false rooms, and traps. It was also a storage facility for their weapons, secrets, and war machines.
"It's my job, son," replied Taka. He was tying on his forearm guards. "As the leader of this village, it's my duty to protect everyone in this village. It's one of the decisions you make when you become leader."
"But I'm scared," his son admitted. "And I'm not even fighting."
"I'm scared too, but I can't let that stop me from protecting the village I love and the villagers that live in it." Taka finished preparing and walked to his son. "When I was nominated to become the leader of our village, I knew one day this situation would present itself. It is one I've prepared for in all my years of being a shinobi. And even my death is imminent, I cannont turn my back to my duty."
Shibuki bowed his head, trying not to show the tears that were beginning to form. "But…"
Taka put a hand on Shibiuki's shoulder. "It'll be alright, son. Trust me to do the right thing."
Shibuki nodded, then gave his father a fierce hug. Taka returned it, knowing it might be his last.
"Sir, we need to move," his ANBU announced.
"I know," answered Taka. He released Taka and turned towards a tunnel in the room. "Get going, son."
Shibuki nodded and hurried towards another tunnel to a safe room built for such occasions. He walked down the hallway he was just staring at. At the far end of the tunnel was a metal safe with a tag seal on the door. Shibuki place a finger on the tag, which glowed for a moment before falling off and opening the door.
Inside the safe was the Waterfall's greatest weapon: The Hero's Water.
Contained inside a glass bottle, there was only enough for a few big gulps. Taka sighed. Believe it or not, the time of the coronation festival was also the hundred year time limit for water to be harvested from the Great Tree. Only the Waterfall council and the leader knew about the harvesting due to the secrecy.
Taka strapped the bottle to his belt and walked back to the entrance. His ANBU was waiting for him outside.
"Report," ordered Taka.
"Everyone in the village is in a sort of heavily sedated state. Tori found several spots in different parts of the village that had small traces of a powdered residue that he could not identify. Whatever knocked out the villagers, it has dispersed and evaporated."
Taka grimly nodded at the news at the state his village was in. Then, his second ANBU shishuned beside the first.
"Taka-san, one of the Konoha genin's clones found me and reported that small invasion force has entered through our village's escape route. They are reported to be nothing more than bandits and thieves with a few ronin. Furthermore, another smaller, but more powerful force will be entering the waterfall entrance within the next ten minutes. They are…." the ANBU trailed off, not wanting to admit he saw several of his comrades among the invaders.
Taka felt his heart break at the silence. So, it was true. Several of his shinobi, his family, had betrayed the Waterfall village.
"Nearly 80% of village's shinobi are sick do to the outbreak. And now less than half of our remaining forces are away on missions right now," Taka said to his comrades. "How many Waterfall ninja have betrayed us?"
"I'm sorry, sir, I didn't get a clean count. The attack force seems to made up of Waterfall shinobi and missing-nin from around the Elemental Nations. At the least, 30 shinobi. But Tori has gathered all of our forces who escaped the sneak attack earlier. He currently has 3 jonin and 12 chunin ready for our counterattack. We also have the Konoha nin as well."
"Very well. Let's meet with Tori and the others," said Taka.
"There's one more thing, sir," said the ANBU. "The traitors are led by Captain Suien."
Naruto and Fu were almost to the Great Tree when they spotted a group of Waterfall shinobi between the Tower and the lake. Naruto pulled a kunai from his holster as he prepared to attack. But when he saw Shikaku appear near them and walk to an ANBU, he realized these ninjas were the good guys. Naruto and Fu hurried forward and landed near the group.
"Sensei!" Naruto called out as he hurried forward.
"Naruto. Glad to see that you're alright," Shikaku said with a grim smile. "Have you seen Shino and Ino?"
"No, sensei," Naruto admitted. "Not since your last call."
"They're with me," a voice called behind Naruto and Fu. The turned to see Taka with Shino, Ino, and the remaining ANBU walking to the group.
"We found Taka-san leaving the tree as we arrived," Shino announced. "We decided to accompany them."
Naruto hurried forward to greet his friends when he saw Shino's arm. "What happened to you?"
Shino grasped his arm below the bandage. "Our escort was one of the betrayers and attempted to assassinate me and Ino."
"What?!" exclaimed Fu in shock.
"I'm fine," Shino admitted. He send a nod towards Ino. "Ino was able properly treat my wound and I am capable to continuing with the mission."
"Are you sure?" asked Shikaku. The slightly, red bandage on his student's arm shook him a little bit. It was almost like seeing his own son injured.
Shino sent a nod as well as Ino. When Shikaku turned to Naruto, he nodded as well. Everyone turned to attention as Taka cleared his throat.
"I'm afraid we don't have time to properly get ready, so I'll be quick. Two invasion forces are currently en route to the village with intentions of a a hostile takeover from what we can gather from Naruto-san and my ANBU. One force is made up of ronin, bandits and other desperate types invading from the north. The second group is more dangerous, made up of missing-nin as well as forces from our village that have gone rogue. Each group will be here within the next ten minutes."
Naruto felt his gut clenching at Taka's words. A civil war was about to break out and his team, a low-rank genin squad, were about to be drawn into the middle of it. He heard the stories of the Third Ninja War when genins were immediately rushed to the battle field after only a month of training, but he really didn't believe it. Now he knew how wrong he was.
"The bandit force would normally pose no threat, but the rogue force outnumbers our current force by possibly 2 to 1. They are being led by Captain Suien of the Jonin so it's probable he has some jonin as well. We have all of our ANBU forces, a dozen chunin and 3 jonin, but we're still going to be in danger of being overwhelmed to the rogue force. So the rogue ninja will engaged by us," Taka finished, indicating him and the Waterfall ninja.
"There is something else," interrupted Shikaku. He paused as everyone focused on him. "There is the possibility that there are two S-ranked ninjas accompanying them: Dario of the Mist and Kakuza of the Waterfall."
There a couple of gasps, several scoffs, and one chuckle. Taka didn't say anything. He just stared at Shikaku with a serious look.
"How can you be sure?" Taka asked in a quiet tone.
"I was also ambushed the guide I was assigned," Shikaku explained, ignoring the guilty look on Taka's face. "According to the traitor, Suien paid an organization to help them organized this attack. Dario was the one responsible for the virus outbreak against your shinobi force. I don't know what Kakuza's role in this, but something tells me he is here for reasons other than revenge."
One chunin stepped forward. "This is ridiculous. Kakuza can not be alive. This has got to be some ploy to strike fear in us by saying some S-ranked ninja has come back from the dead."
"We heard the same thing," Shino interjected. "Our attacker admitted they had two S-ranked criminals as well. This is no ploy."
"Again, that is ridiculous."
Taka waved a hand in dismissal. "Enough! Regardless who they have, we will meet them in battle nonetheless. We prepare for the worse, S-ranked shinobi or not. So keep on your toes. Understood?"
"Hai!" yelled the Waterfall ninja.
"So what are our orders?" Shikaku asked as he stood by his students.
"Nara-san, I'm afraid you're abilities of shadow manipulation will be needed here against the rogue force. I can't spare any of my ninja to leave so you're students will engage the first invasion force."
Naruto stiffened, as well as Ino and Shino. Taka was leaving it to him and his friends to stop a small army from taking over a village?
The three genin all looked at each other with doubt, fear, and anxiety. But when Naruto looked around the group, he saw the Waterfall shinobi looking at them with a grim expression while Taka and Fu both had a pleading look. They needed help badly and his team were the only ones who could do anything about it. While Naruto was taught to expect the unexpected, he didn't believe that his first real mission would be in the middle of a civil war. He thought he wouldn't be ready for something like for a long time.
But then….he wanted something bigger. He volunteered for this mission, knowing the consequences. What kind of person would he be if he broke his promise? If he went back on his word? By not fighting, he would fail himself, his teacher, his comrades, and his village. And he would fail to protect the sister he just found.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto looked Taka in the eye and nodded. "I'll do it. I won't go back on my word and abandon those who need my help. As a shinobi of Konoha, I will fight."
Shino, seeing his friend's courage, nodded in agreement. He and Ino have already experience a small piece of what was to come. And if his friend was willing to continue, he would honor that request and uphold the honor of his clan and village.
"I cannot let my friend help you fight a war on his own. As a shinobi of Konoha, I will fight," Shino said.
Ino watched the two genin she had begun to see as her best friends swear to fight with a village the barely spent time in with people they barely knew. She had to admit, the encounter earlier had shook her up. But seeing Naruto and Shino stepping forward, she knew she could not get left behind.
"And I'm not the one who leaves her teammates behind to fight on their own. As a kunoichi of Konoha, I will fight," said Ino.
Shikaku smiled with pride at his students. He could see the fear in their eyes, but their courage transcended easily above . With a grim satisfaction, he realized his students had grown up quickly.
Taka nodded at the three genins statements, knowing they would live up to their word. He heard a small sniffle and saw Fu trying not to cry. With that, he made his decision.
"Fu, I want you to go with them," Taka decided.
Fu turned to him with wide eyes. "What?"
Taka smiled at her. "This is a direct order I want you to follow to the T. Go with the Konoha ninja. Help them out and protect them."
Fu stared at Taka for a moment before standing at attention. "Yes, sir!" She walked over the Naruto and stood beside him with a grin.
"Alright everyone," Taka announced. "Let's move out."
"Yes, sir!" called out the Waterfall ninja. All of them leapt as one and scattered to different parts around the lake.
Shikaku turned to his students and took a deep breath. "Well, I guess this is it."
"Yeah," Naruto nodded, along with Shino and Ino.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry," said Shikaku.
"Why, sensei?" asked Ino.
"I knew the potential dangers of this mission but I still accepted it. I was responsible for your safety. It's my fault I got you into this mess."
"Sensei, it's not your fault," Naruto insisted. "We're not children anymore. We're ninja of the Leaf. We accepted the mission knowing the consequences."
Naruto's gaze never left Shikaku's as he stared at his students. He was determined not to show any fear to his teacher or his friends. He was going to survive. He was going to make it back home. Back to Ayame.
Shikaku finally gave a small nod of acceptance. "Alright then. You four be careful. I'm only going to give you one direct order: Stay. Alive. Understood?"
"Hai, sensei!" shouted Team 10 and Fu.
Shikaku gave a firm nod and went to join the Waterfall ninja when Naruto spoke up.
"Wait, sensei!" he yelled. He put his hands in a cross symbol. "Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
In a burst of smoke, 50 clones appeared around the five ninjas.
"They may be genin-level and vanish with one punch, but maybe they'll give you the edge you need to win," Naruto explained. "They will most likely stand no chance though against the jonin though."
"Thanks, Naruto," grinned Shikaku. "Now get going."
The four genin nodded and dashed away. Shikaku watched them until the disappeared into the trees.
Kami, please keep them safe, he prayed silently. "Let's go," he said to the clones.
"Right," all of them said.
Team 10 and Fu entered the forests and jumped into the trees with Naruto leading them. Each one was ready for what was about to happen. Fu was ready to defend her village, Shino was ready to honor his word, Ino was ready to help her friends. And Naruto was willing to do anything to protect his team and return home.
He formed his right hand into a two-finger symbol. An instant later, a shadow clone formed beside him much to amazement of his friends. Ino and Shino knew he could form clones silently but the art still amazed them ever chance they saw it.
"Here is the situation," he announced. "My remaining shadow clones have been following the invaders and one just dispelled to let me know what's going on. Sensei was right about the majority of them being nothing but bandits and ronin, but there are at least 5 chunin with them. All together, we most likely looking at an invasion force of at least 80 enemies."
"So what do we do?" Ino asked.
"The ronin and thieves would be no problem for the four of us, but the chunins are the real danger," said Shino. "We're not capable of taking them on one-on-one, only possible as a team. I'm afraid our option is to overwhelm the chunin with sheer numbers."
"My clones will handle that," Naruto growled. "There's more than a hundred of them, just waiting to strike."
"But are they going to be enough?" Fu asked. "I mean, we are going against seasoned shinobi and a group of thugs whose main job is to cause trouble."
Naruto chuckled. "We're teenagers. It's our livelihood to cause trouble. Here's what we're going to do…."
Kakuza was currently hidden in the trees with a perfect view of the upcoming battle. He was trusting his 'comrades' to give a good fight against his intended targets. Though if the either one was killed, they're would be hell to pay.
But don't make it too easy, he thought. He had been itching for a fight for days.
I just wanted to apologize to everyone for taking this long to post a chapter. Things have been rough. I'm not exactly proud of this chapter, so feel free to tell me if it sucks. Depending on the reviews, I may rewrite.