After being given a good meal Sasuke, Naruto, and Rika had been given a room at the local Inn. Their sensei had advised them to get a good night's sleep as tomorrow was likely to be a very difficult day. Despite the suggestion none of them felt much like sleeping and were instead playing cards.
"You really think we're going to have to fight off that guy's gang tomorrow?" Naruto asked as he drew two cards.
"Sensei seems to think so," Rika answered as she took one. "So does the sheriff."
"I really hope we do." Naruto said enthusiastically. "It'll be a chance for me to show off my amazing skills."
Sasuke sighed. "You do realize that we're going to be outnumbered fifty to one? I'd hope that even your math skills were at least good enough to figure that out."
"Shut up bastard." Naruto growled.
"They say any competent Genin should be a match for at least ten armed men." Rika said. "A Chunin should be able to handle thirty and a Jonin a hundred. So strictly speaking we would be at a disadvantage unless our sensei was an elite Jonin who could handle two hundred all by himself."
Naruto snorted a laugh. "Too bad Kakashi is the worst."
"I can understand where you get that impression." Rika said. "But his reputation is nothing like that. His nickname is the 'copy ninja' and the other ninja in the village talk about him with awe. He's even in the Bingo Book."
"What's a Bingo Book?" Naruto asked.
Rika looked at him with exasperation. "Okay did you not learn anything while you were in class?"
Naruto appeared to be highly offended while Sasuke gave a slight chuckle. "The Bingo Book lists all of the most dangerous ninja from all the ninja villages." Sasuke explained.
Rika nodded. "If you're in there it automatically mean you are recognized as one of the best."
"And Kakashi is in there?" Naruto sounded as though he could not believe it.
"He is," Rika confirmed. "That's why I was so excited to join your team and have him as my sensei. Of course this was when I only knew him by reputation."
"If Kakashi is in it this book has to be completely worthless." Naruto put his cards down. "Straight flush, that's good right?"
"What the hell?" Rika said. "You got a straight flush drawing two cards?"
"The next time I buy lottery tickets you're coming with me."
Naruto grinned, getting praised always felt good. "What do you think sensei is doing right now?"
"Sitting in a dark room reading porn." Sasuke said.
All three of them laughed and agreed that was all too likely.
Gorou smothered a yawn as he just sat there in the middle of some bushes just keeping an eye on the village gate. He and a couple other guys had been sent here to scout. When he'd spotted the squad of ninja arriving he'd had one of the others hurry back to deliver the message. Most of the ninja had been kids! They would definitely get the boss back.
He was thinking about how boring the job was when a strong hand slapped over his mouth. Before he even knew what was happening he felt the sharp steel kissing his throat.
In one of the wooden towers Kakashi materialized in a swirl of wind and leaves. The sheriff was waiting there for him.
"Damn but you ninja are scary," Daisuke said. "Appearing out of thin air like that; is it any wonder you make people nervous?"
"It's those sorts of skills that make us valuable in the first place Sheriff."
Daisuke gave a sour grunt in reply. "So how did it go?"
"There were two men out there. They won't be reporting anything back though."
"I'm sure Gideon's gang already knows you're here."
"It's a safe bet." Kakashi agreed. "But it's always a good idea to get rid of the enemy's eyes if you can."
Daisuke nodded. "Just so you know Kakashi-san, I and every person in this village are grateful to you and your team."
"That's nice to hear. It doesn't change the fact you deliberately misinformed my village about the circumstances when you requested this mission."
"Like I said, it was an honest mistake. And by the way Kakashi-san, we sent dozens of requests for help over the years. In those the numbers were accurate. If you had bothered to double check your own files you could have found out the truth."
"The village receives dozens of requests every week; we can't thoroughly investigate every single one. Your request for a prisoner escort looked legitimate."
"It is legitimate." The sheriff insisted. "All we want is for you to deliver the prisoner to Nagoya."
"And if we just happen to wipe out this band of thieves and murderers who have been troubling you so much the better."
"Tell me, what do you think of the village's defenses? They were built a couple of years ago in an effort to keep Gideon and his men from rolling through town and doing whatever they pleased. It worked, sort of; they don't bother us here inside the village itself. The people in the countryside suffer worse because of it though." The sheriff gave him a hard look. "All we want is to protect ourselves, that's all!"
Kakashi sighed. It wasn't as if he didn't feel sympathy for them. "I can understand that and sympathize, but we are not Fire country's police force. If we did not charge for our services the ninja villages couldn't exist. When I report this to the Hokage you can expect there to be consequences."
"What sort of consequences?" Daisuke asked nervously.
"You and the village will be black listed. We will not accept any future requests from you."
He sighed in relief. "That's fine. It's not like we'll ever need your help again after tomorrow."
Kakashi felt annoyance. He didn't blame the sheriff or his people for resorting to slightly underhanded methods to solve their problem. When you were weak you did what you had to, to survive. "I am going to bed, good night sheriff."
"Good night to you Kakashi-san."
Before dawn Kakashi had his team awake and fed. He explained the situation and what he had in mind.
"The fact is that if it were just me there wouldn't be any real danger. My concern is for you three. If it comes to an all-out fight I can't protect you all."
"Who says you have to protect us?" Naruto demanded. "We're bad ass ninja and we can take care of ourselves!"
"Isn't this what we go through all the training for?" Sasuke asked quietly. "Aren't we supposed to be able to handle ourselves?"
Rika nodded. "Every mission has the potential for danger. There wouldn't be much point to ninja if we only took the jobs that were safe."
"That is true," Kakashi admitted. "Even though they passed on false information I have decided to accept the mission even so. Part of this is for the reputation of the village, but I also feel that we should help these people. They are Fire country citizens and deserve to be able to live their lives in peace."
Naruto smiled. "Now that's more like it. It sounds like we're going to be heroes."
"Ninja aren't heroes Naruto." Sasuke told him firmly. "Haven't you figured that out yet?"
"Well at least they can be right?" Naruto insisted.
"That's very true Naruto," Kakashi said quietly averting an argument between the two. "We do things that make us heroes in some people's eyes."
Naruto grinned triumphantly.
"But never forget, that just as often we are the ones people hate. We are experts in the arts of violence. We kill people, kidnap people, steal, and spy; all these acts are considered crimes under normal circumstances. You shouldn't fool yourself into believing you can do these things without making some people hate you."
Naruto's smile slipped. "But… more people like you than hate you right?"
Beneath his mask Kakashi smiled. "It's possible I suppose."
"You know sensei the way you answer things always makes me unhappy." Naruto grumped.
"Good, consider it training. Ninja regularly hear things that leave them unhappy."
When Kakashi and his team came to collect their prisoner he was just finishing his breakfast.
"I thank you kindly for the meal sheriff. I hope I get to show you my own hospitality one of these days."
"If you do it will be down in Hell." Daisuke turned to Kakashi. "He is all yours now. I wish you luck delivering him."
"All right." Kakashi said.
"Little lady, boys, Kakashi-san," Gideon tipped a wide brimmed white hat. As he did so he clinked. There were iron manacles on both wrists with chains connecting them together. "This here is my lucky hat, I never go anywhere without it."
"You're welcome to wear it," Kakashi said. "Though I doubt you have much luck left."
"Don't know about that. I've always been what you might call lucky."
"I doubt many people would consider your situation to be all that lucky."
"Could be worse," Gideon said with an insufferable smirk. "For instance, the bounty on me is only good if I'm delivered alive."
"I was wondering about that." Rika said. From inside her jacket she produced a sheaf of fifty seven wanted posters with his being right on top. "Yours is the only one listed as 'payable alive only.' All the rest are payable dead or alive. Why is that?"
"Did you notice who is offering the bounty?" Gideon asked.
"All of them are being offered by the provincial governor. That's not unusual for petty criminals."
"Petty?" Gideon offered her a hurt expression. "Now while me and my boys may not seem like much to ninja from the Leaf we've done as we pleased around these parts."
"I know," Rika said frostily. "Your crimes are listed on your wanted poster; theft, extortion, arson, abduction, and murder."
"That sound petty to you little lady?"
"Fine," Rika said. "You're a tremendous criminal."
Grinning he tipped his hat to her.
It was early morning as they moved Gideon from the jail to the gate. There were however a good many people standing outside watching. Clearly they had known what was coming and had wanted a last look at the criminal who had caused all of them so much trouble over the years.
The people hissed at him. Some made chopping motions in front of their necks. More than a few spat in his direction; all the while Gideon held his head up high as though relishing all of the animosity.
"Why are you so happy?" Naruto asked. "Don't you get they all hate you?"
"Oh I'm right sure they all hate me, but they all know who I am. More important they're all scared of me, every last one. If you all weren't here not a one of them would have the nerve to so much as look me in the eye. That's the ultimate form of respect you know."
"That's not respect." Naruto told him. "Someday I'm going to be Hokage and every person in Konoha will acknowledge me. They'll cheer for me and love me, that's way better than being feared."
"That so?" Gideon said. "You're real young yet kid and don't understand how things work. You can't lead lots of people without being feared."
"That's not so." Naruto said flatly. "Nobody's afraid of the old man, but they still do whatever he says."
Rika stared at Naruto amazed. She could still remember what it had felt like to have the Hokage's attention on her for even a moment.
"You're Hokage is Sarutobi right?"
"That's right, old man Sarutobi." Naruto grinned. "He wouldn't hurt a fly."
Chuckling Gideon turned to Kakashi. "I guess they don't teach the kids about the Third War do they? Things like Kazka just sort of get forgotten, huh?"
"War is an ugly thing." Kakashi answered.
"Oh you'll get no argument from me."
Naruto frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"Do you want to tell him or should I Kakashi-san?"
Naruto looked at his sensei questioningly.
"There is nothing to tell Naruto." Kakashi answered. "It was a battle that was fought back before you were ever born."
Gideon turned to Naruto and gave his own answer. "Kazka was a town in Rain country with about twenty thousand people. The Rock nins had occupied it and were using it as a forward supply base. Your harmless old man sent an army of Leaf ninja to 'pacify' it."
"What's that mean?" Naruto asked.
"The Leaf ninja surrounded the village to make sure no one could leave, and then they burned it down."
"That's a lie!" Naruto snapped angrily. "The old man would never do anything like that! Right sensei?" He looked to Kakashi expecting him to confirm that it was a lie.
Instead he spoke in a neutral tone. "Terrible things happen in war time Naruto. The Hokage was forced to make some hard choices."
Naruto looked as if he had just been speared through the gut.
"Still think your old man aint feared boy? He may be civilized and have a kindly face now that he's old, but don't think he can't do worse things than I ever have. He's feared all right. That's how it works. You put on a civilized face and try to be liked if you can, that does make things a mite easier, but you always got to be feared. It's always better to be feared than loved. Fear lasts longer. Like I said, it's the ultimate form of respect."
Kakashi took a hold of his arm and hurried the pace a bit. "Thank you for the life lesson, now let's get you to your trial and your execution."
Gideon picked up his stride in response as they neared the gate. "I aint ever gonna stand trial Kakashi-san."
"I beg to differ."
Gideon politely grinned. "I am a man of my word Kakashi-san, and I give you my word. I aint ever gonna stand trial."
"We'll see." Kakashi said politely.