Hi, everybody, I finally finished this chapter, hope you like it.
Naruto, Sasuke, Shino and Shikamaru stood in front of the Hokage. They all wore their new vests that symbolised their new rank. Naruto, similarly to his father, wore his trench coat over his attire. He had kept his former clothes and not taken to wearing the standard Konoha uniform for chunin and jonin that his sensei wore. Sasuke and Shikamaru wore the uniform now while Shino kept his high collared shirt under his vest, which he kept open.
"Good to see you four. The mission you'll be taking today is, as I already told you yesterday, a B-rank. We have got information that a pair of missing nins has been attacking villages along the border to River Country. We don't know which village they are from, but the description of the jutsus they used indicates one of the smaller ninja villages. There were victims of poisoning in the second village that was attacked and one victim in the fourth village was found with burns from fire jutsus. Otherwise they seem to prefer weapons," Kakashi informed the team. "Your job is eliminating the threat. Either capture them if you can, or kill them if they pose too much of a danger. Here is a permission slip for the armoury that will enable you to stock up on certain seals. You'll be given chakra storage seals, normal storage scrolls, seals to verify your teammates and paralysis seals. Naruto is in command with Shikamaru being second in command."
The four boys nodded.
"Be careful and look out if there are more missing nins in the area. It could be that it's a group that pretends to be smaller than it is. If you come across other missing nins that don't have anything to do with your mission, I'll leave it to your judgement to see if you can capture them or kill them for their bounties. Now that you're chunin or, in Naruto's case, special jonin, you'll be given a bigger cut from the bounties you bring in for the village. In case something goes wrong, try pinning the blame on another village, preferably Iwa," Kakashi told them.
Shikamaru and Shino looked surprised at this order, Naruto and Sasuke only nodded. They were already used to that kind of order from their training under the new Hokage. Kakashi had a policy that while things could go wrong, you should never admit fault if there wasn't enough proof of you being the culprit. And if you could blame somebody else, all the better. Successes were to be promoted as being done by Konoha shinobi, failures were to be hushed up as well as possible.
The group was dismissed and Naruto led them to the armoury. After handing over the permission slip to the guard, he quickly collected the necessary seals without any of the others looking at him strangely. They knew that he was the expert on fuinjutsu among them and would know which seal was which. He handed the sealing tags over to each of them and they put them away in their pouches. Naruto told them to meet in half an hour at the gate to get the mission started.
The trip to the border of River Country took them half a day. They investigated the attacks by questioning eye-witnesses in the villages that had been attacked. They got a few more details than what had been in their briefing from the Hokage. Not only were the attacks done with weapons, poison and fire jutsus, there was also nearly always a dizzy feeling left after the attack was over. It seemed that genjutsu was used as well. From the route of the attacks it seemed as if the attackers always struck in a limited area so far. A stretch of fifty kilometres along the border and never more than ten kilometres into Fire Country, meaning that they could retreat back into River Country before any help from Konoha could reach the villages.
Naruto had Shino send out his bugs to scout if they could find a hideout within the area that they suspected to be the action radius. While the bugs were gone, the four boys started securing important buildings in the villages with the seals that Naruto created. Fire protection seals were among the most important ones to prevent that the attackers could burn down whole villages to cover their escape when they could finally confront them. Shikamaru and Shino worked as one team, Naruto and Sasuke as another. They went through all villages and prepared for an eventual attack. Normally there was an attack around every three to four weeks and the last attack had been two weeks ago.
The attackers always took supplies with them when they hit a village, next to valuables. So far there hadn't been any reports about them kidnapping people, which was a positive thing, as hostages made missions more difficult. Naruto cleared with the officials in River Country that in case they came across the attackers, they had permission to pursue them, even if they had to cross the border. It seemed that while River Country hadn't been hit as hard as Fire Country by the group, there had been thefts and small attacks, therefore the officials wouldn't mind at all if the ninjas from Konoha could get rid of the threat.
Shikamaru watched the forest that was close to the walls of the village he was currently at. After one week of securing as many buildings as they could, he and Shino had separated and took over watching over one village each. They had been given a kunai from Naruto, which would enable him to teleport to their location immediately if they pushed some chakra into the kunai. It was really incredible how much their classmate could do and how well he had hidden it all the time. The Flying Thundergod jutsu was legendary and said to only be known by the second and fourth Hokages. Now Naruto could use it as well.
Shino's bugs hadn't had any success in finding the missing nins' camp so far, therefore they had all decided that guarding one village each and then calling the others if there was an attack would increase their chances of success a lot. Naruto would first flash to the one that called for backup and leave a number of shadow clones, before flashing to the positions of the other two and bringing them to the attacked village as well. This should enable them to take on the attackers properly. It would at most take five minutes to have the whole team assembled and ready to fight.
So far his watch had been uneventful. But it was only two hours after nightfall. A lot could happen until the morning.
Sasuke noticed movement from the cliffside of the village he was guarding. A closer look with his sharingan activated confirmed that three persons were sneaking up to the village walls from a side where no normal village would suspect an attack from. He acted immediately and called Naruto. A second later his teammate was next to him and he silently informed Naruto of the observations he had made. Naruto created twenty clones to support him and two flashed away to get Shikamaru and Shino. They arrived a few seconds later.
The group took the positions they had decided upon previously and waited until the three were close enough to start the surprise attack that clearly was planned.
"Alright, we know that the attackers always come when it's dark outside and from places where it's hard to spot them," Shikamaru commented the collected data. "All the villages that have been hit had that in common. Those where little to no cover is available close to the village have so far not been hit."
"True. In the first village they used to river to get to the village by staying underwater. In the dark they weren't spotted at all and they could attack within the village without anybody being aware that there were intruders at all. They took out the few policemen that the village had and stole whatever they wanted. The villagers only really noticed that anything was wrong when the office of the major went up in flames and the fire guards were called to deal with it," Sasuke agreed.
"It was similar for the other villages. Unnoticed entry thanks to natural cover, then a diversion and they left before they were discovered. The only resistance they found was taken out by poison, with weapons or in one case fire," Shino analysed. "They don't seem to be interested in fighting a lot from their method of working."
"True, it could have many reasons. We don't know how strong they are and which rank they had before they became missing nins. The only reason we can be sure that they are ninjas at all and not normal bandits, is that the injuries from fire were caused with chakra and not natural fire. There are no eye-witnesses that could give a proper description of the attackers, but the few that saw them at all, were sure that they were able to walk up walls, so they have to at least have had some formal training. The reason for not attacking openly could be that they're too weak to take on large groups, that they are after something in particular that would be harder to get if they didn't infiltrate secretly and then leave while taking as many useful things as possible or even that all of this is a distraction for something bigger. Right now we can't really tell," Naruto commented.
"Well, I think the only way that we can succeed with this mission would be if we caught them in the act," Shikamaru said. "The problem is predicting which village they will hit next. There are too many options to cover them all properly. Even if we left a shadow clone of Naruto in each village we suspect to be the next target."
"True, while my clones can keep up a whole night, one lucky hit and they're down. While I get the memory of a dispelled clone and could act after that, I wouldn't be able to teleport there without a beacon. And I need a charged seal to flash that far. We could do that with any of you. I can give you one of the kunais I use for the flying thundergod jutsu and if you spot the attackers, you can call me by pushing chakra into the seal. I could assemble the whole group there within at most five minutes," Naruto said. "I've just noticed that with seals that I handed to my clones, it only works for up to three kilometres distance for some reason. And we have to cover far more distance than that."
"That's a good basic plan. I think we should split up and each of us takes one village to guard," Shikamaru said. "We will take a kunai each and if we spot the group, we call Naruto and he brings the others over as fast as possible, after leaving a few shadow clones in the other villages just in case. There are seven villages that meet the criteria that we have come up with, we can cover four of them. Thanks to two of them only being three kilometres apart, we can place Naruto and a clone in those, meaning he can cover them both. The two where we can't place one of us, we leave under the watch of twenty of Naruto's clones. They should be able to at least stall for a while until we can get there. Even if Naruto can't easily flash there, we could set up a net of his flying thundergod seals to make the time we need to get there as short as possible."
"That could work. I could be hopping from one seal to the other to get to the place. I would only have to charge the final seal with enough chakra to allow me to return to it with one of you before I get the other two. If I charge a seal like that, I can return to it from wherever I am up to twenty minutes after charging it," Naruto agreed.
They spent the next hour deciding on where to place the flying thundergod seals and which villages would be guarded by a group of clones and which by one of them.
The first attack was Shino's. His bugs had burrowed themselves in the ground that was directly in front of the three that were sneaking up to the village. Unnoticed to them, a number of bugs attached themselves to each and started eating their chakra. When they were five metres away from the walls, Naruto triggered a flash bomb, which allowed Shikamaru to send his shadow out to catch the attackers in his shadow possession jutsu.
Two of them were caught, the last one managed to jump away. Shino sent out more bugs to take the two caught ones out while Naruto and Sasuke engaged the last one.
"Pesky Konoha nins, you won't get me!" The man declared before he sent a fireball at them.
Sasuke countered with a larger one while Naruto used the cover of the two fireballs to throw one of his special kunai towards the man's position. When the explosion of both balls occurred, he flashed behind the man and attacked two nerve clusters with his taijutsu. One was a perfect hit, the other slightly off as the man attempted to dodge. Well, at least his right leg wasn't working anymore and the left arm was slightly immobilised. The man fell to the ground from the leg giving out, but he managed to avoid getting hit while being down by rolling to the side.
Naruto continued his attack and finally managed to slap a paralysis seal onto the man. He then sealed off the man's chakra and told Sasuke to keep watch while he got the prepared prisoner scrolls out. They weren't sure if these were all of the group, so they would need to interrogate their prisoners before they could be sure that the mission was a complete success.
"That wasn't so hard," Sasuke commented. "They weren't strong and were completely caught off guard."
"I know. It's suspicious. They shouldn't have been able to be that successful if they were so easy to take out," Naruto agreed. "From what I saw they can only be average genin level in abilities."
"Let's go and see what Shikamaru and Shino think about this," Sasuke suggested and Naruto nodded.
The next morning, after having put the three prisoners into the scrolls to keep them secure, Naruto let the one that he and Sasuke had caught out and tied him to a chair for interrogation. The man struggled, but the wire used for the job held up.
"You Konoha Scum won't get anything from me!" The man exclaimed angrily. "Especially not brats like you!"
"Is that so?" Naruto asked calmly and used his ninjutsu variant of imitating the Kyubi's killing intent, making the man shake in fear. "Now we can do this the easy way and you tell us all we want to know. Then we'll simply send you and your companions to prison, where you'll spend time for your crimes and can hope to one day get out again. Or we do this the hard way, I'll show you why you have every reason to shake like you do now, you get probably maimed in the process and spend the rest of your life, as short as that might be, in a prison if you don't get put out of your misery."
Neither Shino nor Shikamaru had ever seen how Naruto interrogated prisoners and were honestly shocked to see this side of their comrade. Were they in the place of their captive, they didn't know if they could stand up to that pressure. Naruto simply waited for the man to break under the intent. Nobody below jonin level could normally stand up to the feeling that the presence of an angry biju created. Jinchuriki being the exception. They were used to that. Like predicted the man broke within five minutes and sang like a canary.
He and his two comrades were part of a group of six that had originally been ninjas that Orochimaru had lured to Oto. After the death of their leader in the Konoha invasion, many had deserted the village and were now attacking villages to get what they needed to survive. He also revealed the hideout they had set up and who the other three were. He was the second strongest of the group and second in command. The leader was a former chunin, while he had been borderline chunin in strength. The others were at most genin level. They hadn't been in Oto for long, therefore they didn't know much about Orochimaru and his activities or many of the bases.
He could tell them though that Oto was less a village than a number of hidden bases all over Rice Paddies Country. The man slumped in relief when Naruto dropped his jutsu and sealed the man back into the prisoner scroll.
The interrogations of the other two didn't give them any new information and therefore they were sealed back soon.
"We'll attack the hideout tonight. Shino, sent your bugs to scout the place. We need to know what terrain we'll be fighting at to surprise them," Naruto ordered and Shino nodded.
The bugs few off towards the place where the hideout was located.
The attack was actually very easy for the Konoha team. Shino had told them everything his bugs had relayed to him and Shikamaru had come up with an effective strategy again. Naruto sneaked into the hideout, which was under the roots of a tree, where the group had found a cave that they had enlarged over time, making sure that nothing on the outside pointed at this fact, transformed as a mouse. He put some drugs into the water supplies of the three they found, one teenage girl and two men, and simply waited for them to drink some water. The drug simply made them sleepy and while they were keeping an eye out for possible enemies and the second group that was scheduled to return sometime during the night, they were always careful to not have anybody follow them to their hideout, they didn't expect an attack from the inside.
After two hours of waiting, all three of them were fast asleep. Naruto undid his transformation and tied them all up after taking away all their weapons, money and hidden equipment. In one case he had to empty a blood seal on the upper arm of a man. But by cutting the man's hand and putting the blood on the seal it was easy. The others were called inside and they set to work, sealing up all the things they found in the cave. There were things like food, weapons, some containers with poison, jewellery, money and scrolls. It would be up to the Hokage to sort through these things and give those that could be clearly connected to a person back to their rightful owners. The weapons would most likely go to the Konoha armoury or be sold in shops in case of basic weapons like kunai, shuriken and senbons.
There weren't any truly special weapons among them anyway. The most impressive was a knife that was chakra conductive, which Shino kept for himself. The three ninjas were sealed in three new prisoner scrolls and then the group set off to return to Konoha to report the success of the mission to the Hokage. None of them had been hurt, they got the mission done within two weeks of time, most of that being spent with investigations and with six prisoners that could perhaps give some more information on things that the team had questioned them about so far.
Naruto and his team stood in front of the Hokage. Naruto was reporting the success of the B-rank mission in a brief summary. He would have to write a more thorough report later on.
"Very good work, you four. I'm very pleased with this success. Your payment will be on your accounts by tomorrow and you have the next two days off. After that I have another mission for you. You're dismissed," Kakashi said and the four bowed before leaving.
Once they were out of the tower, they separated and went home. Naruto made a shadow clone that got the task to write the report while he went to Ichiraku's to get a nice few bowls of ramen for the first successful B-rank mission that he had led.
And done. Till next time.