Disclaimer: Maybe, in a parallel universe, I own the rights to Naruto. But that is not this universe. Unfortunately, we are just going to have to live with and accept that fact. :/
'I need to properly investigate the killings of the Uchiha shinobi. They are concentrated around the Kaze no Kuni border with Tani no Kuni, so I should send a team to investigate. Perhaps I should send-'
Itachi's thoughts were interrupted as he heard a loud 'knock' on the door to the Hokage's office. He quickly pushed the issue to the side as he composed himself, ready to speak to his visitors.
"Enter." He said loudly.
The door opened immediately and Shisui entered the office, followed by his genin students. Itachi blinked at the sight of them before he chuckled, letting a smile grace his lips.
"I find it amusing that whenever your team is with you, you actually knock and enter my office through the door like a normal human being, Shisui." Itachi noted good-naturedly.
"I'm already a bad-influence on them, so I thought I should act 'normal' every once in a while. Unless you actually want three different versions of me, of course. It might be fun for the village." Shisui snickered to himself.
'As if that would happen!' Tenten rolled her eyes at the thought of Shisui 'turning her into someone like him'.
"Hmph." Neji scoffed at Shisui's joke, sharing Tenten's sentiments.
"I'd definitely prefer to not have more versions of you, Shisui. You're a handful already, and keeping track of more of you would be a hassle." Itachi noted with a mock sigh. He chuckled once again once Shisui frowned at his joke. "Anyway, you came here for a mission, correct?"
Shisui nodded in response. "Yeah, we did. We talked about this earlier, so I take it you have a C-Rank mission for us."
'C-Rank?' Naruto repeated the phrase in his head as a grin developed on his face. 'Finally! I can actually do a mission that'll have merit to it!'
"I do." Itachi nodded as he pulled out a scroll and tossed it to Shisui. "Your mission is to deliver a box to Takigakure and track down the civilian of the village, Akihana Momoko, and deliver it to her."
"What's on the box?" Naruto spoke up as a grin developed on his face. "Top-secret reports?"
"From what I recall, it's a couple of different souvenirs the woman bought while she was in Konoha. She just happened to forget them." Itachi answered.
Naruto's grin faded instantly and he looked at the Hokage in complete surprise.
"So, you're telling me that our first C-Rank mission is just to be delivery boys for some lady in another village?" He questioned, his voice conveying his disappointment and frustration.
"The task is quite simple, yeah. It's classified as C-Rank for a couple reasons. For starters, the client paid enough money to guarantee a C-Rank status. In addition, there is inherent danger with traveling out of the village. Also, you will be traveling to Takigakure, another shinobi village. You will need to act in a certain way to maintain our good relations with the village." Itachi told Naruto, explaining the reasons for the mission's 'C-Rank' classification.
Naruto nodded at Itachi's answer. The blonde was still slightly irritated about the 'easy-ish' mission, but he was still excited to finally do a more meaningful mission. Besides, the Uzumaki had never traveled much in general and was always curious about the world outside of Konoha. He was finally going to get see what else was out there and he could hardly wait!
"So, yeah, that's our mission." Shisui spoke up with a chuckle. "I think you all should go out and get ready for it. We'll be out of the village for about a week, so pack accordingly guys. Meet me at the gates to the village in two hours."
The three genin members of Team Five nodded. They then dismissed themselves and left the office, ready to pack and follow their sensei's orders. Once they left, Itachi and Shisui turned to face each other.
"You have the scroll I gave you yesterday, correct?" Itachi questioned.
"I still got it, yeah. I'll make sure it's delivered while we are in Taki. After that, well… we'll see what happens." Shisui shrugged.
"Hopefully everything will go according to plan." The Godaime Hokage commented. "Anyway, you need the box for the current mission."
"Right." His best friend nodded as the Hokage went to go retrieve the box of souvenirs for his team's first C-Rank mission.
"Tenten, you're back early. No training today?"
As Tenten arrived back at the weapons shop she both worked and lived at, she was greeted by an older man with grey hair that was worn in a ponytail. He wore a pair of black pants and the standard Konoha shinobi jacket over a black gi. The man had a straight, small on his nose and between his green eyes. Upon seeing the man, Tenten quickly bowed.
"Hello Kanji-san!" She greeted the man politely. "Training was canceled for today. My team is going on its first C-Rank mission today."
"A C-Rank already, huh?" The man, Kanji, noted with a chuckle. "It's probably nothing too special. I remember my first C-Rank was just a simple escort mission to a nearby town in Hi no Kuni."
Tenten nodded in response. "Yeah, ours isn't that complex either. We're just delivering some souvenirs to a civilian in Taki."
"Not too hard of a mission. Just wait until you get to the chūnin rank. That's when the missions become a lot more memorable." Kanji continued to chuckle.
"I'm waiting patiently." Tenten replied with a smile on her face. "Anyway, I got to go pack and get ready for the mission. I'll be gone for about a week, so you may need to find somebody to cover my shifts at the store. Sorry again."
"Don't apologize, Tenten. You're an active duty shinobi now. You have an obligation to the village to take the missions that you are assigned to. I can always find somebody to cover for you, so don't worry about that at all." Her boss informed her. "Just make sure you come back in one-piece."
"Yeah, yeah." Tenten laughed at her boss's words. "I'll make sure not to die or anything."
"And make sure your team stays safe too. I'd like them to come by someday and meet them, even if it just to have them buy some of the merchandise here." Kanji added.
"I'll keep them safe too, yeah." Tenten continued to laugh as she opened a door in the store and walked up the stairs towards the rooms in the top.
The kunoichi and the older man had a good relationship that went beyond most relationships between employer and employee. He was also the man who rented her out a room once he found she was still living in an orphanage. Kanji was also just a funny old man who enjoyed talking and telling stories about his days before his retirement when he was actually on active duty. Tenten really enjoyed him and was going to make sure, just as he asked, that she and her team would be fine on the mission.
With that thought in mind, she entered her room and started to pack for the mission.
'Hmm… I'm done.' Neji told himself. '… We really didn't need two hours for this.'
The Hyūga didn't waste a second and headed to the Hyūga compound and got packed. It only took him ten minutes to get ready for the week-long mission. He put the backpack of supplies over his shoulders, grabbed any weapons and any smaller supplies that he could store in the pockets of his pants, and proceeded to walk out of his room.
Immediately after opening the door and stepping out, he was bumped into by his cousin, Hinata. The two winced in a small spurt pain upon impact before they turned to face each other.
"You should be more careful with your surroundings, Hinata-sama." Neji told her coldly with a small glare.
"S-Sorry, Neji-niisan." She replied with a frown on her face.
Neji opened his mouth to respond to his cousin, but he stopped himself as he started to study his cousin. It was the first time he had seen her since the day genin teams were assigned and she had her appearance had changed. Hinata was no longer wearing the jacket that she normally wore. She was, instead, wearing a black short-sleeve shirt. The girl was also wearing mesh armor underneath it. Neji also noticed the training weights that were sticking out slightly underneath her pants.
"You are wearing weights?" Neji questioned her.
"Huh?" Hinata blinked in response at his question before nodding. "Y-Yeah. Gai-sensei wanted us to start training with them."
Neji, once again, gave his cousin a surprised look. While he noticed her stutter, he also only heard her stutter once in her answer. Normally, Hinata would, in his opinion, take minutes to answer a question due to her nervous behavior and stuttering. Stuttering only once was an improvement for her and something that took him by surprise.
"Neji-niisan? Are you okay?" Hinata questioned him.
The Hyūga prodigy was, once again, snapped out of his thoughts. His cousin was now looking at him with confusion on her face. He proceeded to shake his head.
"I'm fine, Hinata-sama." He told her simply.
"Are y-you heading out of the village?" Hinata questioned, noticing the backpack on his shoulders.
"Yes. My team was assigned a C-Rank mission and will be gone for approximately one week." Neji answered.
"Well, then good luck Neji-niisan." His cousin told him with a smile on her face.
"… Thanks." Neji replied quietly after a few seconds.
Their conversation ended shortly as Hinata needed to meet her own team for training. Once they stopped talking, Neji left the clan compound and decided to head to the meeting spot early, hoping to get some time to meditate and think.
'It hasn't been too long, but Hinata-sama seems different. She seems more confident… and stronger. And not just her. Naruto certainly has gotten more focused and capable as well. Two failures…' Neji shook his head as he thought to himself about his cousin and his teammate. '… No, I suppose they aren't failures. They shouldn't be improving at their rate if they were…'
Ever since he joined Team Five and had his conversation with Shisui, Neji had been conflicted about his beliefs in destiny and his views about his teammate and other 'failures' like him. He still couldn't come up with an answer to satisfy his concerns. Now, after just a small conversation with Hinata, he had another concern to add to his thoughts.
The Hyūga prodigy was looking forward to some peace and quiet before his team arrived so he could think…
"Fuck, I'm late!"
Naruto blinked at the voice. He turned his head just in time to see Uchiha Sasuke rush past him down the streets of Konoha. The Uzumaki stared at his former classmate for a few seconds before a grin developed on his face. He then started running and caught up to the boy.
"Hey Sasuke, where you going? What are you late for?" He questioned the Uchiha.
"Training. Gai-sensei scheduled training twenty minutes ago and I fucking overslept!" Sasuke cursed in response to the question. "This is going to be so embarrassing! Gai-sensei's gonna work me to death for this."
"Overslept? Really?" Naruto looked at him in surprise.
"Yeah, overslept. Don't say anything about that, by the way. I got enough crap from my parents about that anyway." He grumbled in response. "Got a whole lecture about 'not acting like a true Uchiha' from Dad and a 'don't stay up so late' from my Mom."
"What were you up 'late' doing?" The Uzumaki questioned curiously.
"Training." Sasuke replied before giving Naruto an irritated glance. "Look Naruto, I'm sorry, but I'm wasting time that I don't have right now. We can catch up later."
After that statement, Sasuke started to run faster down the streets of the village. Naruto, for a moment, thought about trying to catch up to him, but decided against it. To him, Sasuke was not in a good mood.
'Besides, I gotta mission to get going on.' Naruto reminded himself with a smirk.
With that thought, Naruto returned to his walk towards the gates to Konoha.
An hour and thirty minutes passed since Team Five left the Hokage's office. Shisui arrived at the gates of Konoha wearing a backpack for traveling out of the village. Upon arriving at the meeting point, he was greeted by his team.
"As usual, you guys are early." He noted with a smirk. "I really love you guys, you know? When I got assigned a genin team, I wasn't expecting a group that actually was more punctual than me."
Naruto and Tenten smiled at their sensei's praise while Neji nodded, accepting the compliment.
"Do you have the box that we are supposed to transport?" Neji questioned their sensei.
"Uh huh." Shisui nodded, placing his right hand on his backpack. "I got it in here. We're all good to go now, if you all just want to get started a little earlier."
"That sounds like a good idea!" Naruto exclaimed happily. "Let's get going. I can't wait to see what the world is like outside Konoha!"
Shisui chuckled in response to Naruto's excitement. "Well, we aren't doing much traveling. Taki isn't too far away from Konoha, but we'll probably get to see some kinda cool things along the way. Anyway, let's head on out then."
A few minutes later, after clearing with the Border Patrol Guard, Team Five headed out of Konoha towards Taki, beginning their first C-Rank mission.
In the middle of a cave in Taki no Kuni, two young men were sitting on the ground, as if waiting for something. The first was a rather large, tall man with orange eyes and three tufts of orange hair: two just above his ears and one styled like a mohawk in the middle of his hair. He wore a sleeveless, white tunic with black pants, a purple rope belt around his waist, and he had on a silver, metallic necklace. The second man had a slightly darker skin tone, black eyes and shaggy black hair, and had six arms. He wore a similar outfit to the other man: a white tunic, black pants, and a purple rope belt around his waist. The two young men had no forehead protectors, but they carried an aura that revealed them to be shinobi.
Both men remained quiet in the cave. After waiting for a specific amount of time, they both heard the sound of footsteps and stood up.
"Jirōbo, Kidōmaru: I have a mission for you two." A voice spoke to them.
The two men, Jirōbo and Kidōmaru, were now joined by a third figure. He was a man with long black hair, pale skin, and golden eyes that resembled a snake. The man wore a black robe with red clouds on it.
"Orochimaru-sama." Jirōbo greeted them man with a bow. Kidōmaru also bowed with his partner. "What do you wish for us to do?"
"It's a small errand that shouldn't be much of a challenge for you two, but I need it done regardless." The man, Orochimaru, replied with a chuckle. His laughter had an unsettling tone to it, but neither of the other two men seemed to notice or care. "I need you two to infiltrate Takigakure and retrieve their precious 'Hero's Water'."
"Takigakure, huh?" Kidōmaru noted the village as a grin developed on his face. "Heh, that'll be a fun challenge. I'm sure they have enough good shinobi to give this mission a decent difficulty level."
"You don't take missions seriously, Kidōmaru. This isn't a game." Jirōbo shook his head, scolding his partner. He then turned his attention back to Orochimaru. "We understand the mission and will have it accomplished as soon as possible."
"Don't keep me waiting for too long. I've been rather impatient recently." Orochimaru informed the two young men sharply, releasing traces of killing intent at them. Both Jirōbo's and Kidōmaru's eyes widened as they tried to resist showing their own fear. A few seconds passed before Orochimaru finally stopped with his killing intent and looked at them with a smirk on his face. "As long as you're both fast, though, have as much fun as you want. Slaughter as many Taki shinobi as you like."
"… Heh." Kidōmaru was the first to recover from Orochimaru's killing intent. The six-armed man gave the snake-like man a smirk of his own. "We'll be back shortly and we'll have a collection of bodies for you to experiment on."
"Good." Orochimaru nodded in response. "Then you two are dismissed. Get to work!"
"Understood!" Both Jirōbo and Kidōmaru spoke in unison as they disappeared in a shunshin, heading to complete their mission.
With both Jirōbo and Kidōmaru gone, another figure entered the cave. The man wore a similar black robe with red clouds on it, but he was much larger and had a slouched back. He had on a straw hat and a mask that, combined with the cloak, showed none of the man's skin.
"What are you hoping to accomplish in Taki, Orochimaru?" The man spoke with a deep voice. "I know it is not to retrieve the Nanabi Jinchūriki. We've been ordered to wait at least one more year before beginning the hunt of the jinchūriki, after all."
"Sasori, is it really necessary to meet with me in that disgusting puppet of yours?" Orochimaru asked the man, a smirk on his face. "We're partners after all. You can show your true face to me."
"Don't insult my work, you snake!" Sasori nearly growled at the other man.
"I wasn't intending on insulting you, Sasori. I just wanted to see your face. It's been so long, after all." Orochimaru shook his head, chuckling slightly. "Anyway, to answer your question, our leader hasn't assigned us much work recently, so I thought I would entertain myself and begin doing some research on a topic I've always interested in."
"And you are interested in Taki's 'Hero Water'?" Sasori questioned.
"Certainly you've heard the rumors about it. Kakuzu has been very informative with me about the water whenever I ask him a question, but I want to truly study it and its effects on chakra in more detail. No matter the strain it could put on the body, any large increase to one's chakra surely can do marvelous things for their strength and their potential to create new jutsus." Orochimaru explained, continuing to chuckle.
"Your passion for research is still strong, I see." Sasori commented with a shrug.
"What can I say? Research is my 'art' after all." The snake-like man replied.
"… You're a scientist, Orochimaru. Not an artist." The puppeteer shook his head.
"Hmm… I suppose that's accurate. But does it really matter if I'm a scientist or an artist?" Orochimaru questioned. "Not necessarily. Names are meaningless titles. What really matters is what one is able to accomplish under their name, and I intend on accomplishing a lot."
"… Accomplish whatever. Just make sure your 'research' doesn't distract you for too long. We're meeting up with our leader in two weeks. Don't dawdle. You know how I feel about being late." Sasori informed him coldly.
With those words, Sasori left the cave. Soon after, Orochimaru left as well, leaving the cave completely empty.
"Hey Shisui-sensei?" Naruto spoke up, getting the attention of his sensei.
"Hmm?" Shisui made a hand gesture, urging Naruto to continue.
"I'm not trying to complain about the mission or anything, but I'm just curious: why was this mission assigned to us?" He questioned. "Like, why didn't the civilian lady from Taki not give the mission to a team from Taki, and then they send a team down to pick up the box and bring it back? Wouldn't that have been easier?"
"Hmm… I guess that might have been easier." Shisui shrugged in response. "Regardless, the reason why the mission was assigned to us was because Konoha and Taki have been starting to work together and share missions more often these past few years."
"Really?" Tenten spoke up in surprise.
"Yeah. Itachi… er… the Hokage," Shisui shook his head, remembering to refer to his best friend as the Hokage to his students, "has been trying to improve our relations with the other hidden villages quite a bit since he got to office. That includes also strengthening our relationships with our allies. Right now, Taki is probably our strongest ally. So, to further improve our alliance, our villages will occasionally give each other missions and work with each other. "
"Huh…" Naruto mumbled to himself before he let a smile develop on his face. "I'd kinda like to work with some of the Taki shinobi sometimes. It'll be cool to see what another hidden village's shinobi can do."
"Taki shinobi are pretty cool for the most part. I'm sure you'd like them." The Uchiha commented with a grin. "At the very least, you can learn a few things from them. They're pretty tough, resilient people."
Neji barely paid attention to the conversation and kept quiet as he continued to focus on his surroundings. The Hyūga had his Byakugan activated and was currently scanning the area for any potential threats. After a few minutes, Neji noticed a group of people in the distance: a group of armed civilians were hiding behind a few trees down the path. They all possessed axes and other iron weapons. He quickly realized what they were and spoke up.
"There are bandits nearby, hiding behind the trees." He informed his teammates sharply, interrupting their conversation. "They're waiting for us to approach them and then they'll ambush us."
Both Naruto and Tenten looked forward to the trees with wide eyes. Shisui simply shook his head in response.
"Well, that's why we had your Byakugan activated." The Uchiha commented. "I'm going to scan the area for any other bandits in the nearby area. I trust you guys can handle the ones up ahead, but if something happens, don't worry: I'm still here and I won't let anything happen to you guys."
Shisui proceeded to disappear, using the shunshin to travel. The genin members of Team Five were left alone. All three of them continued to study the trees.
"We're still far enough away that they can't hear us, but I'm sure they're expecting something now that our sensei left. They'll probably just come and charge us soon, no matter what we do." Neji commented, shaking his head.
"How many are there?" Tenten asked as her hands went to grab a shuriken.
"Fifteen. None of them are shinobi, but they all seem physical strong and they do have some impressive weapons on them." The Hyūga answered.
"So they have numbers on us." Naruto noted as he made a hand sign. "Then I say we even up the numbers in our favor. Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Immediately, twenty clones of Naruto appeared in a poof of smoke. The clones proceeded to charge towards the trees, ready to fight.
"That should at least draw the bandits out of their hiding spots so we can fight them." Naruto informed his teammates.
As soon as Naruto had informed his teammates of his intentions, the bandits proceeded to jump out of their hiding spots and attacked the clones with their weapons. Once they were out in the open, the three genin charged forward to fight as well.
Neji reached the bandits first and attacked one of the bandits as it managed to cut through one of Naruto's clones with an axe. The bandit proceeded to try and hit Neji, but the Hyūga managed to avoid the attack. He then delivered a series of palms to the man's body on pressure points and near arteries, causing the man to wince in pain. Neji continued his onslaught for a few seconds before he delivered a chop to the man's neck, knocking him unconscious. He then, due to his Byakugan, noticed another bandit approaching him with a knife in his hands. Neji quickly side-stepped, avoiding the attack, and deliver a palm with great force to the man's stomach, hitting near his artery. The man immediately coughed up blood and fell to the ground instantly. Neji then turned his attention to the next approaching bandit.
Tenten remained at a distance and proceeded to toss shuriken at some of the bandits while they remained fighting Naruto's clones. Just like with all of the training dummies she had practiced on during the academy, she managed to hit the vital spots of all her targets, causing them to die instantly. One of the bandits, however, noticed the kunoichi's attacks and charged at her, gripping an axe tightly. Realizing that the bandit was getting too close to her, Tenten pulled out a kunai knife. She used the shunshin to disappear behind the bandit just as he was about to attack her. The kunoichi then stabbed him deep into his back, causing him to fall to the ground immediately.
Naruto was quick to join his clones and engage in fighting alongside them. The blonde coordinated his attacks and positions amongst his clones, making sure that he never took any real 'hits' from the bandits while he continued to fight them. He and his clones used their fists to pummel the men, knocking them unconscious.
"Had to use a frickin jutsu like clones to fight us. Typical shinobi shits. Can't do anything without your fancy powers!" One of the bandits hissed as it charged the original Naruto.
"These 'powers' can save lives, you know?" Naruto responded back as he tossed a kunai at the approaching bandit.
The Uzumaki was expecting the bandit to try and avoid his weapon. However, the bandit did not have the reflexes that Naruto thought he had and, as a result, was hit by kunai in the chest. It punctured him deeply and caused him to die. Naruto's eyes widened at the sight, but he pushed the thoughts to the side as he focused on the fight with the remaining bandits.
A few seconds passed and only one of the fifteen bandits remained alive and conscious. He was surrounded by the three genin members as well as five of Naruto's shadow clones. The bandit gripped an axe in his hands tightly as he glared at them.
"Just you wait, brats! Even if you finish me, the rest of my men will surely kill you all!" The bandit snarled at them.
Before any of the genin could respond to the man's threat, Shisui reappeared right behind the bandit. He proceeded to stab the man straight through the stomach with a sword. The bandit's eyes widened instantly as he winced in pain, feeling the blood rushing out of the new wound.
"Not happening. The rest of the bandits you had positioned throughout this path? The rest of them were killed by me." Shisui informed the bandit coldly. "I have no respect for men like you, who try to ambush and kill travelers with no motivation but greed. So, why don't you join the rest of your 'men' and rot in hell!"
Shisui quickly pulled the blade out of the bandit's body. He fell to the ground into a pool of his own blood, dead. The Uchiha then pulled out a set of kunai and threw them at the bodies of the unconscious bandits, killing them instantly.
"Sh-Shisui-sensei!" Naruto's eyes widened at his sensei's actions.
"They were still alive." The Uchiha replied with a shrug. "Bandits like them won't change. I've seen enough of them during my career to know the type of people they are and what they'll do after this. They'll simply wake up later, regroup with the rest of the survivors, and try and ambush the next set of travelers. The only thing that they'd do differently is be more careful and make sure that their next targets weren't shinobi. No, it's better to kill them now, and potentially save the lives of the next set of travelers that come down this road."
The Uchiha then started to breathe loudly. He was angry about dealing with bandits and he knew how he acted when he was angry, so he made efforts to calm himself down. A few seconds passed before he turned to his face students with a much more relaxed face.
"Regardless, I knew you all would be able to take care of yourselves and without getting harmed at all. Good job team. You are all going to be great shinobi!" Shisui told them with a smile.
Neji nodded, accepting his sensei's compliment. Naruto and Tenten, however, did not immediately respond. Their faces seemed to darken as realization dawned on them about what they actually done.
'… Wait, that was their first kills.' Shisui, too, seemed to realize exactly what they were thinking and he immediately scolded himself for congratulating them.
The group, soon after, continued on their way towards Taki. Both Naruto and Tenten became quiet as they tried to process exactly what they did and why they did it.
"… You made a kill too, right?" Shisui asked Neji, who seemed the least affected by the deed. The Hyūga nodded. "You don't seem to be feeling as bad as your teammates do."
"The Hyūga Clan gives personal lectures to all clan members when they enter the shinobi force about all of the necessary duties, including killing." Neji explained.
"So do the Uchiha Clan. I think all of the clans do." Shisui commented. The Uchiha then resisted the urge to grind his teeth together. 'The shinobi without clans are fucked in that regard… God, that's something actually worth discussing in the academy, so of course they never talk about that.'
"In addition, you are correct. Those men who would've just killed more innocent civilians if we let them live. No, we did the right thing. I'll probably always remember today for my first kill, but I won't regret it." The Hyūga continued to speak.
Shisui smiled at his student's answer. He then turned to look towards the other two members of his team.
"Do you mind maybe talking to them? About the whole thing?" He asked the Hyūga.
"Me?" Neji blinked in confusion.
"I figured they'd probably respond better to you talking to them about it. You're their age after all, and you also got your first kill at the same time. Your word probably would have more merit than mine." Shisui explained with a sigh. "But I guess I can talk to them if you don't feel comfortable doing that."
"No… It's fine." The Hyūga shook his head in response. "I can. I'll talk to them."
His answer earned the Hyūga a smile from his sensei.
Eventually once the sun started to set, Team Five stopped and set up camp in the middle of a few trees. Shisui caught them some fish in a nearby river and the team ate a small dinner. Once they finished, the Uchiha ushered his students to go to sleep while he took up a night watch to make sure nothing would attack them in the night.
Naruto and Tenten lied down on the sleeping bags they brought with them. The two had gotten a little more talkative with passing time, but they were both still very quiet after making their first kills.
Now that they were alone, Neji sighed and finally decided to speak to them. He had a couple of hours to think of how he was going to approach this and, after some inner debate, the Hyūga had an idea that he was going to go through with.
"Naruto, Tenten: can you tell me why you two wanted to become shinobi again?" He asked them.
Both Naruto and Tenten looked at their teammate in confusion at his sudden confusion. There was an awkward silence amongst the genin that Naruto eventually broke the silence with his answer.
"To become the Hokage." He told him with a confused look on his face.
"And you?" Neji looked towards Tenten.
"To help out the village and become a great kunoichi." She answered, her face showing her own confusion.
"If I recall, a kunoichi like Tsunade of the Sannin." The Hyūga remembered. "… Both she and all of the Hokage have fought in wars and against other people: shinobi, samurai, and civilians. And they all have made kills."
Naruto quickly realized the direction of this conversation as his eyes started to narrow in irritation.
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Those men attacked us and deserved to die. Believe me, I get it." He informed the Hyūga sharply.
"I don't know if you do." Neji pointed out quickly. "After all, do you judge the Hokage for taking lives? Or Tsunade-sama? Or even Shisui-sensei?"
Naruto's irritation disappeared instantly. Both he and Tenten were now looking at Neji in surprise.
"… No. I haven't." Tenten spoke up, answering for her and Naruto.
"And why? After all, the killed." Neji continued to question.
"… Because none of them killed meaninglessly. They only did it in battle, and against somebody that was a threat to them or somebody else." Naruto commented quietly.
"Precisely. They weren't murderers. They only killed when necessary: like we did." The Hyūga informed them. He then got up from his own sleeping bag and walked forward to the middle of their sleeping area, standing directly in the middle of both of his teammates. He sighed before he started to speak. "I… I'm not going to forget what we did, and I don't think you all are. We killed. There's nothing we can do about that, though. We have to, as our duty to Konoha. Otherwise people we work with and the village we serve could be in danger. So, don't try and regret anything you all did today. With every kill we are forced to take, we are only helping our village and potentially keeping somebody safe from a potential danger."
Silence filled the campsite as Naruto and Tenten processed Neji's words. Their silence was deafening to the Hyūga and he was starting to wonder if he said something incorrectly. He shook his head in frustration. 'After all that thought I put into this too…'
Neji's thoughts were interrupted, however, as Tenten got up from her sleeping back. She then walked up to the Hyūga and gave him a hug, causing his eyes to widen.
"Thanks Neji. That was something I really needed to hear and be reminded of." She told him as she let a smile grace her lips.
"I…" Neji blinked in surprise as he instinctively returned her hug.
"She's right." Naruto added as he got up from his own sleeping bag and walked over. "We… We did need to hear that. We're shinobi after all. We have to kinda wake up to what that really means and actually act like them."
Tenten let go of Neji, ending their hug. Naruto proceeded to hold out his hand towards the Hyūga as he smiled at the prodigy.
"Really, thanks Neji." Naruto told the boy.
"…" Neji shook his head as he let a sincere smile cross his lips. He then shook Naruto's hand. "Don't thank me for anything, you two."
In the distance, Shisui was sitting in a tree. He had clones patrolling the area, making sure that nothing tried to sneak around and attack them in the middle of the night. He was thinking about getting some sleep himself when he noticed his team. He noticed all three of them smiling, with Naruto and Tenten being infinitely more cheerful than they were earlier this morning.
'… Heh. Thanks Neji.' Shisui smiled to himself as he turned away from his team. '… You're all good kids. And I'm going to make sure you're the best Konoha has to offer when I'm done with you all.'
With those thoughts, Shisui finally decided to go to his own sleeping bag and get some sleep, officially leaving patrol to his clones.
The journey to Taki after the run-in with the bandits was, for the most part, uneventful. Nothing too noteworthy happened along the journey for Team Five: something Shisui was more than okay with.
After three days of constant travel, Team Five finally reached a large lake that had a waterfall falling into it. Standing directly in front of the lake was a Takigakure shinobi. He was a tall, skinny man with shaggy red hair wearing a long black-sleeve jacket with a red-strike pattern and dark red pants that resembled the color of blood. A scythe was attached to the back of his jacket. He wore a pair of goggles over his eyes and had the Takigakure forehead protector around his neck. The man was tossing a kunai from one hand to the other when he spotted Team Five approaching. He immediately sighed and walked over to them.
"I was wondering when you leaf guys were going to get here. I got the letter that you'd be arriving today, but I didn't realize that you would all be getting here so late." The man grumbled to them. "… You guys are the right group, right? The ones who took the mission from one of our civilians?"
"We're sorry about that." Shisui apologized for his team. He then pulled out a scroll, identifying them as the team that had accepted the C-Rank mission that Taki had sent to Konoha. "As you can see, we are the team that accepted the mission."
"I can see." The man replied after studying the scroll for a few seconds. He then started digging into the pockets of his pants. "The name's Kariudo Zagi and I'll be the one escorting you all into Taki." He then finally pulled out four bandages. "I need you all to tie these around your eyes before I let you into the village?"
"Huh?" Naruto blinked in response. "What are these for?"
"Don't take this the wrong way, but we Takigakure shinobi take pride in the fact that no one outside of our village knows how to enter our village, and we'd like it to remain that way. So, when you guys are sent into and out of the village, you'll be blindfolded."
"… Is this really necessary?" The Uzumaki questioned, turning his attention to his sensei.
"Just go with it, Naruto. They're not going to do anything." Shisui informed him.
"Yeah, we're not stupid. We're allies. We would just like to maintain our reputation." Zagi continued to explain as he held out the bandages. "Again, this won't take too long. Just keep your eyes closed."
One by one, the members of Team Five accepted the bandages and tied them around their eyes. They were then escorted, one-at-a-time, into Taki by Zagi. Naruto was the last one brought into the village. He didn't know exactly what was going on when he was being escorted. The only thing he was aware of was that he was underwater and that he had to monitor his breathing carefully. A few seconds passed by, though, and he was finally brought up to the surface. He was then escorted out of the water and was given permission to take off the blindfold. The blonde quickly did so and looked out into the village.
"… Whoa…" Naruto's eyes widened as he looked at Takigakure.
"… Kurama is here? What the heck?" Chōmei nearly shouted within Fū's head.
Fū had been peacefully reading a book, taking a bath in her apartment when she heard Chōmei's voice. The sound surprised her greatly and the mint-green haired girl ended up dropping her book into the water she was laying in.
"No! Come on!" The kunoichi shrieked as she grabbed the book as fast as she could. She then blew onto the book, releasing a gust of wind that blew off all the water she could. Her efforts were in vain, however, as the damage had been done and all the pages were soaked. Nothing she could do would change that and dry the book properly. "… Dammit. I really liked that book too…"
The Taki kunoichi sat the book down to the side of her bath. A scowl then developed on her face.
'Hey Chōmei, feel free to give me a warning when you have something to say like that. I was in the middle of a good part too…' Fū whined internally.
"Sorry about that, Fū, but I couldn't help myself. Anyway, I think you should finish your bath now, get dressed, and get out into the streets." Chōmei nearly demanded.
'… Huh? What for?' A confused look developed on the girl's face. 'The sun's setting, so it's going to get dark soon. There's no reason to go out right now.'
"Someone stepped into this village that I think you need to meet. It's somebody that I want to meet at least." Chōmei informed her sharply. "Just use some of my power and sense the chakra signatures in the village. You'll see what I mean."
Fū frowned at that answer as she stood up and got out of the bath. She made a hand sign and concentrated, sensing for anything that may have gotten a reaction like that from Chōmei. Almost immediately after beginning to sense the area, she felt some chakra source that felt as strong as Chōmei's: as strong as hers. The mint-green haired girl's eyes widened and she quickly rushed to dry herself and get dressed.
'Who is that? Is that another person like me?' She asked her questions frantically.
"Kurama's here, and whoever is containing him." Chōmei answered. "… It's been an awfully long time since I've seen him. I wonder if this is a sign of a lucky day or not…"
Whatever it was, it was the first day of excitement in weeks for the pair. As a result, once Fū had gotten herself dressed, she ran out of her apartment and headed out into the streets of Taki.
"Thank you so much for bringing back my souvenirs!" An older woman, Akihana Momoko, bowed in gratitude towards the members of Team Five. In her hands was the black box that they had been assigned to deliver. "I was so upset when I left them in Konoha. I'm relieved to have them back and know that I didn't just waste my money there."
"Think nothing of it ma'am. We're just glad to be of assistance." Shisui spoke up for his team. His genin students nodded, expressing their agreement.
"I'm glad to hear that. You Konoha shinobi are some of the nicest outside of our own shinobi. Thank you all." Momoko continued to speak.
Naruto smiled in response to her praise.
With the meeting complete, Momoko walked back towards her house with her box. Team Five then exchanged looks with each other, feeling a sense of accomplishment. Their first C-Rank mission as a team was now a complete success.
"Your mission is over, but it is starting to get dark outside." Zagi spoke up. The Takigakure shinobi continued to follow them even after helping them get into the village. He was, seemingly, following orders and keeping tabs of the shinobi that entered the village. "Our leader wanted me to inform you that you are all invited to stay the night in an inn here and travel back to Konoha in the morning."
"That would be easier, yeah." Shisui noted. "We'll take you all up on that offer. Mind if we go meet with your leader, though? We should at least introduce ourselves to him while we are here."
"You can meet with him, yes." Zagi nodded in understanding as he started to walk down the streets of the village. "Follow me."
Team Five nodded in understanding and followed Zagi. While following him, Naruto couldn't help himself and allowed his eyes to wander the village around him.
Taki was nothing like Konoha. Although the village did have plenty of trees that gave it a 'green' look to it, the village was primarily 'blue' from the water. The village had rivers that extended from the lake in the center of the village. Many people of the village actually traveled throughout the village through small boats.
The village was nothing like Naruto had ever seen and he was loving every second of being in it.
"Pretty cool, huh?" Tenten asked the blonde with a grin on her face. Like him, she was also excited to be seeing another hidden village.
"It's awesome! This place is amazing." Naruto gushed.
"Thanks for the compliment." Zagi spoke up with a chuckle. Although he was walking and showing them the way to meet with the leader of Taki, he was also, once again, playing with a kunai in his hands. "Taki's not too much, but it's home for me and everybody else here. It's kinda a special place."
"'Not too much?' That's an understatement!" Naruto declared excitedly.
Zagi chuckled in response. He opened his mouth to say something else to the blonde, but he was stopped as he noticed approaching Takigakure shinobi. Most of them ran past them and continued heading towards a giant tree at the center of the village. One of them, however, jumped forward and landed in front of Zagi. The man looked at him and the Konoha shinobi with a look of absolute terror on his face.
"Z-Zagi-san, drop what you are doing. We need your help now!" The man nearly begged the man. "W-We need all the help we can get to track someone down and retrieve the… retrieve the…"
The Konoha shinobi and Zagi stiffed at the tone of voice of the newly arrived shinobi. The Taki escort looked at the man in front of him with a frown on his face. Concern was starting to become evident on his face.
"What's going on? What happened?" He demanded. "Who do you need me to track down?"
"S-Someone has stolen the Hero Water!" The shinobi answered frantically.
Author's Note: Hello everybody! Here is chapter seven :)
Can I just say that I am still excited to really begin getting into this story? I'm finally getting to the point where I can truly start to explore all the potential side-effects of Itachi becoming the Hokage instead of massacring his clan. And I'm so excited to show you this universe that I have started to really develop in my head. :)
Yeah... shit's going to hit the fan starting next chapter. And I can't wait for it too and see what you all think of it! Thank you all so much for all the lovely reviews and support that I have received so far. I really appreciate everything and I hope that I continue to write a story that keeps entertaining you all :)
I don't have too much else to say. I'm a little distracted right now, because I have some work I need to get done. Curse college schedules! :/ Regardless, I'll begin working on chapter eight immediately and it will be posted when it is complete. Once again, thank you all so much for all the support so far! I'll see you guys when it is finished! Until then :)