Anko returned from her reconnaissance mission after a few hours without incident. She drew a basic map of the village and surrounding area and Shizuku helped fill in some details. A messenger arrived with the list of ceremonies to be performed and she and her team planned out the security arrangements.
It began shortly before noon the next day.
The streets of the village were crowded by local residents who cheered and bowed respectfully as the Spring Priestess made her way to the local temple to officially begin the Festival of Spring Renewal.
Walking at her side was Sakura. She tried to look relaxed as the center of attention for the entire village was walking beside her. her eyes darted though the crowd searching for any possible threat. So far as she could tell though the people were just genuinely celebrating and happy.
She was trying to look underneath the underneath.
How many of the people cheering were plotting Shizuku's death? Even those who weren't had to know about what had happened to the previous seven girls who had walked down this exact same road towards this same temple. Did they just not care? Or were they happy at the prospect of Shizuku's sacrifice and a bountiful harvest?
"There is no need to look so concerned Sakura-san," the little priestess told her easily. "Whatever will be will be."
Sakura looked over at her calm face. "You really aren't worried at all are you?"
"No," Shizuku replied. "If it is my fate I accept it."
Sakura shook her head. "I'm not sure if I admire you for your calm or just think you're crazy."
"Aren't ninja also taught to accept death?" Shizuku asked curiously. "Don't you also sacrifice yourselves for your village?"
"That's different," Sakura said primly. "We ninja are warriors. We defend the village with our courage and skill and perform the missions that make our village prosper. While it is true that we may die in service that is a risk we all accept. We don't just sit around waiting to die. Ninja act we fight and we struggle to fulfill the mission and if we die or if we are forced to sacrifice ourselves to complete the mission…" She shrugged. "That is the price for what we do. No ninja though would just tamely lie down and die."
"I see," Shizuku said quietly. "What about killing? As a priestess I am taught to harm no living thing. Does killing others not bother you?"
Sakura's lips twisted downwards and she lost that air of confidence and certainty she'd had just a moment ago. She was thinking of Chibi and how hard it had been to kill him.
"I haven't killed a person yet and truthfully I'm not looking forward to it. However, 'The world is an unforgiving place. Be forthright and have no doubts of what is required of you.' That's the twenty first rule of shinobi conduct. The world wouldn't need ninja if it were a gentle place. We have to be willing to do whatever is required of us no matter how hard it is."
"I see," she answered sadly.
They walked on down the road for a bit.
"So Naruto is really your boyfriend?"
"That's right," Sakura said happily.
"So what's it like to kiss a boy?"
Sakura stumbled and nearly fell.
From a nearby roof top Anko frowned. she would have to have a word with Pinky later about maintaining your concentration. Scanning the crowd from her hidden position she saw no threats. She and her two other students were keeping watch from above where they had a better viewpoint. she was sure she could act in time if she saw any danger emerge from the crowd.
She dashed unnoticed another block down the parade route and again took up station. Shizuku would be under her watch the entire time.
The first day of the festival went exactly as planned.
They were able to escort Shizuku back to the shrine without any trouble at all. Anko had originally thought she would be able to give her students some free time to enjoy themselves and scout. reluctantly she had decided it would be better to keep her team together. As they sat around to a nice dinner she listened silently as her team talked.
"This mission has been a piece of cake so far," Naruto gushed. "Maybe whoever it was has gotten scared off since there are ninja here protecting Shizuku."
"Cha! Well we are leaf ninja! Who wouldn't be scared?" Sakura agreed.
Shino sat stoically at the table. "I find that an unreasonable hypothesis as our visible presence was somewhat less than intimidating."
Naruto looked at his teammate. "What?"
"He means a bunch of killers aren't going to be scared off by a twelve year old girl with pink hair." Anko said with a smirk.
"Hmph," Naruto crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah well I still bet whoever it is got nervous when they found about us."
"Sensei," Sakura asked. "You don't think the enemy has been scared off?"
"I think it's very early in the mission," Anko told her.
Late that night five men dressed in black moved through the woods to the edge of the clearing surrounding the shrine. They huddled together and looked over the darkened shrine. Even with its lights off they could see it clearly thanks to the moon.
"Remember, there are ninja in there. We need to be careful." One of the men whispered.
"Is this a good idea?" Another asked.
"It has to be done," the first one said.
"What if the ninja are awake?" A different man said nervously.
"It's three in the morning, I'm sure they're all asleep."
"Want to bet?"
The five men were startled and looked up to see three children sitting on tree branches.
The blond boy who had spoken had a huge smile on his face. "So are you guys lost or something?"
A pink haired girl spoke while kicking her heels back and forth. "They're all dressed in black. Maybe they're playing ninja!"
"Perhaps they are here to attempt to assassinate our client," a boy wearing shades thought it was night said.
The other two looked over at him.
"You really suck at the whole sarcasm thing, you know that?" The blond boy said.
The men meanwhile had pulled out an odd mix of weapons from an old rusty sword, to a pair of axes, a club, and even a scythe.
"We don't want to have to fight you. Please just get out of the way." One of the men said.
"You children don't want to fight us," another warned.
Hearing that all three of them laughed.
"Sorry," the blond boy said. "If you had any idea what we went through during the last month you'd know how silly it is to try to and threaten us."
The three ninja leapt down and attacked catching the men by complete surprise. Despite being armed, having a major size advantage, and outnumbering the ninja 5 to 3 the adults were all quickly beaten unconscious.
Team 5 had been forced to fight as a unit against their sensei and thought nothing at all of taking on amateurs who were dressed up as ninja. That they had no real experience fighting either as a group or as individuals told. team 5 was able to overwhelm them without even having to use and jutsus, simple taijutsu was enough. In short order they were down on the ground and tied up.
When Shino's kikai bugs had detected intruders Anko had sent them out to deal with the problem without a second thought. Having survived her training for a month she had faith they could handle a few farmers.
When she came out to talk to the prisoners she was in an expansive mood.
"Now you're going to tell us everything you know about the plot to kill Shizuku."
"We're not telling you a damn thing!" Once of them snarled.
"Resistance, that's cute!" She began twirling a kunai about one of her fingers and glanced over at her squad. "I'll bet my share of the mission check that I can have him squealing inside of five minutes. Any takers?"
Her students shook their heads. "Sucker bet," Naruto muttered under his breath.
Anko smiled proudly, the kids were starting to learn.
"You can't do anything to us," the same man said trying to look confident while tied to a tree. "We're citizens of Fire country! We have rights!"
"Rights?" That really made her laugh. "Now that really is cute! I like you! For someone who was coming here to murder a little girl you're all right. I think I'll go easy with you and just start with your pinky."
"What do you mean?"
He was screaming in sudden sharp pain.
Anko only had to break one more finger to get him talking. She managed it in less than two minutes.
They were confessing everything they knew and the more they talked the more the jovial mood darkened.
Anko had taken the mission seriously from the moment she'd heard the details from the mayor. She'd been confident though that she and her team could handle it. If what she was hearing was true then this mission was of a much larger scope than she'd ever imagined.
She'd worked for the torture and interrogation section of the ANBU under Ibiki and was expert at spotting lies. The prisoners seemed to be spouting nothing but the truth and she seriously doubted any of them were capable of fooling her.
When they'd finished spilling their guts she had a quiet word with Shino and then told her team to let them go.
"We're just going to let them leave?" Naruto said disbelieving.
She sent him a sharp look. "Don't question my orders Naruto!"
He winced at the harsh words and tone and did as he was told helping to free the prisoners. Once released the wasted no time getting away.
As soon as they were gone Anko turned her attention back to Naruto. "Never question my orders, especially not in front of the enemy. You need to have faith in my leadership and I need to trust you to obey my orders without hesitation or question. You're not allowed to just pick and choose which orders you're going to follow."
"Sorry sensei," he said.
His soft answer reduced her anger and she continued in a more reasonable tone. "I happen to believe what they told us. That being the case there's no point in handing them over to the local police and we can't keep them prisoner here, they'd only get in the way. That only leaves killing them or letting them go, and though tempted I'm not quite ready to start killing prisoners. If we decide arrest them later Shino has placed tracking bugs on all of them."
Naruto silently nodded. Her orders made more sense now.
"As things are we're going to have an interesting morning."
It turned out that what the prisoners had told them was true.
Anko had her team up, fed, and ready well before dawn. Shizuku was left alone in the shrine while Naruto, Sakura, and Shino waited outside. The sun was just over the horizon when their sensei returned.
"They were telling the truth about what would happen if they failed," Anko announced. "I count about a hundred men coming up the path, all of them armed with this or that." She sounded grim but not at all nervous.
About ten minutes later they saw a long line of men approaching them. About half of them wore leather jerkins covered by coats with badges pinned to them. Each of them wore a short sword belted on. The rest of the crowd approaching them wore different sorts of out fits and carried a wide variety of weapons ranging from axes to spears to swords and sickles. They came up to the edge of the clearing and stopped. Anko and team five were all standing there waiting patiently.
One of the men who wore a badge crossed the clearing to speak to her. "I am captain Hotaka, commander of the Hikedo police force. We've had word of an incident last night."
"Nothing we couldn't handle," Anko told him pleasantly."
Hotaka frowned. "Mayor Binya has decided that it would be best to leave the priestess's safety in our hands."
"Really? He went to the trouble of hiring us in the first place because he didn't trust his own police force with protecting her."
"The mayor has since had a change of heart," Hotaka told him. "We realize we have wasted your time and apologize for that. We will still pay for the full cost of your services, but we'd like you to leave now."
"I am afraid that would be impossible," Anko told him. "My team and I were dispatched here to complete a mission and that is exactly what I intend to do."
"Your mission is over now; we'll take care of the girl."
Anko gave no reaction at all, merely smiled at him and began to twirl a kunai about her finger. "I am afraid you don't have the authority to cancel this mission," Anko said. "I think it would be best for you and your men if they turned around and left."
"I can't do that," Hotaka said menacingly. "Stand aside or me and my men will use force," Hotaka said.
"You and your men are welcome to try."
"If you do not stand aside what happens next will be on your head."
"I'm just fine with that," Anko told him sweetly. "I am responsible to my Hokage to carry out the missions assigned to me. I'll be damned if I'll go back with my tail between my legs on the say so of some local sheriff."
"Fine then," he stomped back over to his men.
"Naruto," Anko said kin a low voice.
"That jutsu is authorized," she said firmly. "Use it as often as your need to to stop the enemy."
Naruto only had time to nod once before Hotaka gave his men a signal. as one hey drew their weapons and gave a shout as they ran straight across the field to try and overwhelm them with sheer numbers.
Naruto looked at them and made the decision.
"Flash," he said.
Three figures leaped away.
"Clear," Anko said.
"Clear," Sakura said.
"Clear," Shino said.
Naruto hesitated and held his ground waiting for the enemy to get close. He waited until they were nearly on top of him.
There was a flash of yellow as a dome appeared centered on Naruto. Twenty to twenty five men were within ten yards of him running and screaming at the top of their lungs. They were living breathing men.
And then they weren't.
Naruto felt a mild heat and then felt blood splash onto him. His mouth had been open and he got a mouthful of salty hot blood. He spat it out as fast as he could but couldn't keep from swallowing some. His face, his clothes, his hands, his feet were drenched in blood and bits of meat.
All around him the grass was watered with it and the air was left with a fine red mist.
At the edge of the jutsus range three bodies dropped to the ground chopped in ½ or ¾. Two men began screaming, not in anger but in pitiful agony. One had lost a leg from just below the knee. Another an arm and a leg. The appendages sliced off in a perfect curve.
These were Uzumaki Naruto's first kills.
They marked the beginning of the Bloody Flash.