Chapter Twenty One ~First Battle

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Pakun had reported the exact location of the Kazekage to Kakashi early in the morning. Which meant it was time to leave.

I strolled into the room of my genin, intending to inform them of the situation and bid them farewell.

"Wake up brats, it's time for my departure," I said, flicking on the lights.

Three groggy genin were up instantly, aware of the situation at hand. "You're leaving already?" Aisa asked, worry lacing his voice.

I rolled my eyes. "Yes, baka. This is the Kazekage we're talking about," I addressed all three of them at this point. "A team of ANBU will be here within a day's time to escort you back to Konoha. Behave. I won't get yelled at for your stupidity when I get back," I glared at them. "And lastly, once you return to the village, take a day off. Rest. I want you three to report to Ibiki Morino every morning at 8am sharp. Tell him exactly that, he'll know what to do. And listen to whatever he says. Because he will assess all three of you and report back to me, and I better like what I here. Got it?"

I almost smirked. They were going to have so much fun training under Ibiki.

And Ibiki would be pissed to, which was a plus. But he owed me for that one time so I figured he'll train them while I'm away.

A barrage of complaints surfaced but one glare shut them up.

"Alright knuckleheads, cya," I waved to them as my back was turned.

I could tell that they wanted to say more, especially Aisa, who's anxiety was emanating off the charts, but I ignored those mixes of emotions and left without turning back.

They were probably worried that I wouldn't come back alive, given the previous day's' situations. It was a totally possible outcome, of course.

No one was safe in this profession.

I exited the village gates, joining Team Kakashi, sand ninja and granny chiyo, the old woman and one of the honored siblings.

"Ready to leave?" Kakashi asked, shooting a worried glance at me. I rolled my eyes at that.

"Yeah, whatever."

I assessed the old woman who would be accompanying team Kakashi and I on the mission. She was strong, there was no denying that.

But having her here could compromise the mission. She had a personal connection to the enemy, who wouldn't hesitate to use this weakness against her.

Who, I wasn't sure. But after all her years of sitting back she just cared about this mission too much.

We started running.

My eyes drifted half shut against the glare of the sun as we ran. Naruto and Sakura were panting, but I reveled in the heat, soaking it into my bones. I could come out here, I mused. The desert was nice. The heat. The sun. I could get used to it.

Except for the damn sand that got everywhere.

I looked up into the empty blue sky, watching a single vulture circle in wide, lazy arcs. My head tilted slightly. I remembered a time when vultures were circling me. I thought I was going to die. Maybe I did die, a little.

The air was getting colder around me, goosebumps rising on my skin as the temperature seemed to drop. I realized my mistake and shook my head sharply, coming back to the present. It was burning hot, not cold. It was an oven out here. The air wasn't getting colder. I was on a mission.

Kakashi must have caught the movement because he casually angled his run so that he's next to me. I could barely keep the sigh and rolling eyes contained; he would want to talk. Couldn't he see that I didn't want--didn't need--to talk?

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