Chapter 23: The Real Deal

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"Are we ever going to do any INTERESTING mission?"

Maru is acting up again. I mean, I'm not particularly thrilled with the current missions we're doing either, but his nonstop complaining is really getting to me. Koji sighs.

"Will you just stop? It's not going to change anything."

"Who asked you, Mr. Showoff?"

"I'm not a showoff; you are!"

And now it's the nonstop bickering between Koji and Maru. I would have never believed that Koji would be the type of guy to lose his cool around someone, but it seems like Maru just knows how to hit his buttons. I look at Otokaze-sensei who's completely ignoring the whole situation. It probably is the smartest thing to do. It's just so hard to pretend like I don't hear anything, since my headache is telling me otherwise.

We just finished with some mission to retrieve someone's pet armadillo and are on our way back to report to the Kazekage. It's been a week of nonstop D rank missions. I wish we got at least a C rank.

"If you're so annoyed with these missions, why don't you tell the Kazekage?!"

It's the same argument every single time. Koji asks Maru that and then Maru answers...

"As if I could! Look how scary that man looks!"

And I totally agree with that statement. I would tell him myself, but he freaks me out as well.

We arrive at the Kazekage's office and find Gaara's team there. I smile right away at the sight of Gaara standing there.

"I guess this team will do."

The Kazekage says while looking at our squad. Gaara and his team turn around, and they all look surprised to see us. Baki then turns back to the Kazekage.

"Aren't they a bit too unexperienced for this mission?"

"It's not like there is much of a choice. We are always short on capable shinobi. Brief them over the mission and get to it as soon as possible."

What's going on here? We just came back, and we're going on another mission? None of us genin dare say a word. Otokaze-sensei gives a detailed report of our previous mission and then we go and follow Gaara's team.

"Otokaze, we need to both discuss the mission at hand. After that, we'll explain it to your team."

Otokaze-sensei nods at Baki.

"You got it; lead the way."

They both go to one of the strategy rooms and leave us genin outside. I notice that Maru and Koji are standing at a distance. I guess it's going to take a while for them to get used to Gaara. I go to Gaara's side and we start whispering to each other.

"What's going on here, Gaara?"

He leans in.

"We've been assigned a B rank mission. The problem is that this mission needs a second team that will act as a distraction. According to the Kazekage, their level doesn't matter... "

"A B rank? That's awesome! We're going to finally get some action!"

I realize that I said that in a pretty loud voice. Koji and Maru both look at me.

"Did you just say a B rank?"

Maru's face lights up. Koji on the other hand looks a bit worried.

"Wait, aren't we genin? How could they give us a B rank mission?"

Gaara turns his gaze back to me.

"Of all teams, why did it have to be yours?"

He looks really worried.

"Hey, don't worry so much. We're a pretty strong team, right guys?"

I look at Maru and Koji, waiting for their affirmation. Maru gives me a thumbs up. Koji hesitantly nods. I look back at Gaara and notice that he's frowning at me.

"Kiu, why don't you start realizing what you're going into? This is not a game!"

This is the first time I've seen Gaara so clearly annoyed and serious with me. I just think that this mission won't be as bad as he makes it appear... He's become so serious since we became genin. I always feel like he sees me as just a kid! Well, I'll show him. I'm much stronger than he thinks I am.

"I know that it's not a game. I don't need you to tell me!"

"Haven't you even thought about the reason why he'd put an inexperienced squad on such a high level mission?"

He says that in a low trembling voice.

"...What do you mean?"

Gaara closes his eyes and looks away.


Just as I am about to ask him again, Otokaze-sensei and Baki come out of the room. Sensei doesn't have his usual smile on. I go back and stand next to my teammates. Baki then starts explaining the mission.

"Alright, first I will tell you what the objective of the mission is. We are required to assassinate a certain corrupt general. No details are given to us for the motive of our client. Only the Kazekage knows, and he knows what's best. Our job is to follow his orders and carry out the mission successfully."

An assassination...? Wait... I don't want to kill anyone, especially if I don't have any valid reason to do that.

"The assassination will be carried out by my squad. As for Otokaze's team, you will act as decoy. You will go for the general before us, to make them believe that you are the team sent to assassinate them. You will then lure as many of his bodyguards as possible away from him so that my squad and I can take him out. The reason why this is a B rank mission, is because the target of the assassination also hired ninja to protect him. This won't be easy."

This is getting way too real for me... I'm actually starting to get really scared at the thought of such a high level mission. What did Gaara mean by what he said? It is a little odd that he'd put a weak team on such a mission. There's no doubt that we can distract the enemy which will lead to Gaara's team succeeding in the assassination. But... There's no guarantee that we'll all be able to escape from our pursuers. Does that mean that our team... is just a sacrifice for the success of the mission? Our survival is not that important...? Or am I just thinking too deeply into this?

"Are you okay, Kiu...?"

I look at Koji who said that quietly next to me.

"Koji... I think this mission is going to be really bad..."

"I think I know what you're on about. I heard what Gaara told you. I can't believe... they'd do that."

"So... you really think...?"

Otokaze-sensei then joins up with us. He then starts talking quietly.

"Alright, this will be dangerous... very dangerous. Don't worry, though. I'll do everything in my power to protect you. Here, take these..."

Otokaze-sensei then hands each one of us a very small whistle made of a plant that I don't recognize.

"If ever you're in danger, blow into that and I will be right there to help you."

I squeeze my hand around the whistle and bring it to my chest. I then breathe deeply. I feel a little better, knowing that Otokaze-sensei is there. There's hope that maybe we will all make it, despite all expectations.

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