Sorry for the long wait. I'm trying to make the Wave mission unique so planning everything out took a while. Also I went back and retouched some of the previous chapters. Updates will be more regular now.

Ch. 23 Strategies

"Well since we can't crash at an actual house, can we got to a hotel or something?" Fuu asked the instructors while they walked into the woods around their clients property.

"I suppose we can at least look around for one." Kurenai answered.

"Aren't you used to sleeping outside on missions?" Anko asked.

"Doesn't mean I'll turn down the chance to sleep indoors." The green-haired jinchuuriki replied, remembering several times back in Taki she had been forced to sleep outdoors. "And besides, we've already established that there are enemy ninja in the area. Camping out will give them an opportunity to ambush us if they discover us, but staying in a hotel will thwart them lest they not care about keeping an image in the area."

"She's got a point." Kurenai whispered to Anko. "And it would help Zabuza-san recover if he were indoors."

"Alright then. I'm all for a comfortable inn room too. Let's go find one." The purple-haired jounin told her team, then faced Naruto specifically. "By the way otouto, since Konoha is in the area now, and especially considering who's in their group, we're going to have to go with our aliases for the rest of the mission."

Naruto nodded, and while the rest of his team understood, Kurenai's didn't. "Aliases?" Sasame asked.

"Yeah, it's a defense for the two of us in case we ever encountered any Konoha shinobi." Anko answered. "Officially, we've been dead to them for ten years, but there's still a chance we could run into someone who'd recognize us and figure out everything Otokage-sama set up back then was faked. This Kakashi jerk is a likely one to do that. So the two of us will use fake names to at least avoid outright exposing ourselves."

"So what's the new names we should know?" Haku asked.

"We'll still go by Anko and Naruto, to make it easier on you guys and the clients. But our family name will be Urashi for the both of us. And Naruto, you'll have to hide your whisker marks. Dead giveaway."

Hinata and Isaribi soon applied some makeup to Naruto's cheeks to hide his whiskers, and then everyone went to go find a hotel to check into, with Kurenai carrying the immobile Zabuza on her back.

Once the group of Oto ninja went into the main town, they were pretty disturbed to see what kind of shape it was in. The heart of downtown could barely be described as better than a slum. Doors and windows of empty shops were boarded up and those that weren't out of business yet looked like nothing short of the grace of Kami was keeping them from it. And every one of the locals gave this group some distance and cautious looks. Under the circumstances it was entirely normal. Some locals gave the girls interested looks as well, and the fact that Naruto was the only mobile guy in the group made some feel bolder than others.

One particular man, once a mediocre fisherman but a random pauper now, approached the group of shinobi. He saw the headbands but didn't recognise the music note symbol so he figured they couldn't possibly be professional ninjas. Also he was a bit of a sexist so that factored into his judgment here too. "Hey ladies, wanna come to my place today? You must be new to town, so I'll let ya know there's few places to sleep peacefully nowadays here."

Hinata and Isaribi took a step back to feel guarded by Naruto. Luckily the other kunoichi weren't strangers to these types of situations and knew how to handle it. Anko crossed her arms and smirked. "Thanks for the kind offer, but we're not staying for the night."

"Ah come on gal. It'll be worth your while." The pauper added, wiggling his eyebrows for effect.

Anko acted like she was flattered. "In that case, can I put a little perfume on now?"

"Sure. Knock yourself out."

Anko then pulled out a small canister. "Actually, I think I'll knock you out instead." She then sprayed some pepper spray, ninja strength, at the harasser. The effect was like a bee sting right on the eye. The man screamed, clutched his eyes, and fell on the ground. Anko and the rest of the experienced kunoichi just walked past. Naruto, Hinata, and Isaribi were momentarily surprised by what they had just witnessed, but snapped out of it and caught up with the rest quickly.

"Nice job sensei." Hinata whispered.

Anko grinned wickedly. "Remember, a kunoichi's greatest weapon is catching a man off guard and playing on his lusts. Do that, and a direct fight is unneeded."

'Maybe I can use that to have some time with Naruto-kun.' Isaribi quickly and deviously thought just then.

"Please tell me that's not where we'll stay." Sasame pleaded as a run-down hotel came into view. Let's just say in the condition it was in the only guests you could expect here were vermin.

"I'm guessing that with the country as bad as it is, tourists don't bother coming by anymore." Kurenai stated. Although both she and Anko had already figured that out. They just wanted their students to see it and the extent of the damage to the town for themselves. It would provide a good motivator for them later on.

"So it's this bad, even with Daimyo-sama providing financial aid?" Hinata asked.

Anko nodded. "Obviously. But remember, we don't know how much money he's giving and either way he has to do it in secret or else Gato would just be more brutal in an effort to collect it quicker."

"Which is why we have to eliminate him." Naruto commented.

Anko nodded. "Right, but let's continue this discussion elsewhere." She quickly led everyone into a forested area and summoned several snakes to act as sort of watch dogs. And then she also activated a soundproof dome barrier to ensure no one overheard them. "We can't risk what I'm about to explain being overheard by anyone. Remember there's a chance some of the villagers here may act as eyes and ears to Gato in exchange for better treatment from him. Ninja are not the only ones we should be cautious of here."

The students didn't think of that, but after hearing it, it made a lot of sense. Even if tyrants were hated, some of their victims would sell out others to better their own situations and gain approval from the tyrant. It happened a lot in history.

Kurenai set down Zabuza, who remained conscious enough to hear everything, as Anko explained what she was thinking. "This Gato guy is a business tycoon, not a warrior. And since he's at the top of the business, that means he's much more likely to have others do his work for him, rarely getting directly involved unless he's overcome with curiosity or thinks the job's not getting done well enough. Because of this, eliminating him isn't as easy as it sounds."

"Because to eliminate him, we have to be in the same place he is at some time." Sasame thought out loud.

Anko nodded. "Exactly. Somehow, we need to draw him out, or discover his whereabouts. Sadly, the first option is the easier. If we did happen to capture one of his cronies and get him to crack, Gato most likely has a bunch of lowlife thugs under his thumb and I'm betting he has plenty of ways to get rid of them should they double-cross him. It's likely he'd be prepared for a ninja assault. Getting him to come to us puts the odds in our favor."

"And how do we do that?" Naruto asked.

Anko shrugged. "I'm not so sure right now. Kurenai-chan, you got any ideas?"

The genjutsu expert put her chin in her hand, showing she was thinking. "If we were to make it look like the bridge is about to be completed, then Gato will likely come out of hiding to personally do something about it. Remember he wants the people here too afraid to oppose him. So by coming here when the bridge is nearly complete with the intent to destroy it and kill some of those involved, he sends a frightful message to anyone left."

"The mizukage did something similar once. Only it involved someone speaking for the rights of kekkei genkai wielders." Zabuza added in.

"Okay, since Gato should most fear the completion of the bridge, if it begins to look like a reality he'll send hired goons to kill the construction crew, the initial planner, and demolish the structure too. If we prevent that, and even use some tricks to make it appear the bridge is getting done sooner, then he should get desperate and reveal himself. And then we kill him." Anko summarized with a smile.

"What about a Deadman Switch?" Zabuza asked.

None of the genin understood that, but Anko and Kurenai caught on. "Oh crap, didn't think of that. Good thinking Zabuza-san."

"What'd he mean by that?" Naruto asked.

"'Deadman Switch' is the term used to mean a vengeful failsafe movement. The name comes from the idea of a weapon that works when the wielder is dead. Think of a paperbomb trap that you keep wrapped around yourself, but instead of activating when you put chakra into it, it activates when you stop. Therefore, if you were to die or run out of chakra, then it explodes, destroying you and hopefully your enemies as well. Same basic principle." Anko explained.

"Some strategies are similar." Kurenai added. "The Altos know what to do in the event the Otokage is killed and how to find the killer. They're trained for that beforehand. And if a team fails to return home, that tells the kage of the village to send a second group to see what happened and finish the job. Gato may have some of his men prepared to do something if he were to simply vanish. Only after the bridge is complete can these people truly be safe from him."

"But he's not a ninja. Would he use such a tactic?" Hinata asked.

"We should be prepared for it anyway." Kurenai answered. "There is a chance we're overthinking what the enemy may have planned, but overthinking is more likely to succeed than underthinking."

Naruto nodded. "Okay, so we have a plan regarding our target. How does Konoha's involvement play into this?"

"Preferably we don't interact with them at all. However, if they're here on behalf on the head of the bridge project like Tazuna told us, then that will complicate things." Anko stated with a sigh. "It's likely that interacting with them will be inevitable, and to avoid any unnecessary conflict, we can't interfere with their mission or fight them unprovoked."

To the genin it sounded obvious enough, but there was something they didn't quite grasp. If there was a fight and Konoha could effectively place the blame on Oto, then they might be able to declare war on the village. They might not, as Oto was hidden from them and too small to be too much of a threat, but if by chance Konoha did try then it would cause trouble. Also, Konoha would seek out their allies to hep find Oto, which would ultimately reveal Suna's and Taki's real alliances, which could end up sparking the Fourth Great Ninja War.

So in the long run, as long as they didn't make any malicious moves towards the Konoha shinobi, they could remain living the way they liked. But in the event these Konoha nin made the first move, then the Oto shinobi could retaliate justifiably. Although even then Konoha might try and do something back.

"And what do we do if they won't do the same?" Isaribi asked, already sure of the answer but wanting confirmation.

"The same thing we do to any enemy: fight back." Anko answered.

"Okay, now that that's covered, let's set up a base camp." Kurenai told everyone. "We should go deeper into the woods to make it less likely to get company. Also with Zabuza-san here incapacitated someone will have to remain with him at all times until he recovers, so somewhere where our enemies would be unlikely to go to is obviously preferable."

It didn't take them long to find a good enough spot. Open enough that they could set up tents, but discreet enough that only someone trying to get there would. There was no fresh water in the immediate area, but it could be gotten with a twenty minute walk north.

That night everyone went to sleep in their tents, with Naruto and Zabuza sharing while two people took guard shifts for three hours throughout the night. It was rather uneventful, which was a good thing for now.