It was a classic thing to happen. An easy mission turning into an A-class one in a matter of minutes. Every textbook in academy stated that a ninja should always expect the worst and be prepared no matter what happened. If a jutsu went wrong or one got ambushed they still should be prepared. So when a group of missing ninjas started following Iruka and his two teammates when they were returning from a C-rank escort mission a textbook example would have been retreating and thinking through the situation to make the best tactical decision - to run or fight.
Iruka knew this; he had read the books and learnt them by heart to become a classroom teacher. He was on his last mission before getting a class of his own, having made a decision to rather teach the kids than being on the field. Even the Third Hokage had agreed; it was a calling. But even the textbooks, chuuning tests and years of training hadn’t prepared Iruka and his teammates to suddenly face bored, jounin level missing nins trying to find other ninja to toy with. They had been returning to Konoha, just a couple hours away from there, when their travel had been interrupted by a feel of killing intent nearby and within seconds they’d been attacked.
Iruka had reacted fast, avoiding a fatal bow to his neck and running to take shelter up in the treetops. His teammates had also taken shelter, and they all knew the enemies had allowed that. They were out to play, after all, since they could have done far more damage by ambushing them seriously.
“Come out, we just wanna chat”, one of the enemies, a big ninja with pitch black eyes, yelled. They were looking around lazily, not in a hurry to kill them. Just great , Iruka thought, trying to calm down his heart and making a mental count of weapons in his pockets. He was already separated from his teammates, though he could sense them nearby. They had already been driven away from each other, and because they were hiding trying to make a plan together was out of question.
“Oh come on, don’t make us come to you”, the smallest of the enemies said, her hand itching to take a sword to her hand.
“This is getting boring. I’m going”, she said a second later, and then she was up in the trees where Iruka knew his teammate was hiding. The other ninjas didn’t waste any more time, and the only thing saving Iruka from a kunai was his reflexes kicking in before the weapon hit his side.
“Let’s play”, he hear behind his back. He almost didn’t dodge the first kick aimed to his dead, but the second one aimed at his legs managed to take him by surprise. Iruka tried to get some distance between him and his enemy, but the other didn’t give him a chance to do that. Every time Iruka tried to start casting a jutsu or throwing something other that basic weapons his enemy calmy ruined his chances. Gods , the enemy was fast!
They wouldn’t last long. Three chuuning against three jounin was a fight already lost. But they wouldn’t go down without a fight, and if Iruka was going to die he would at least try to make killing him hard for the enemy. He managed to get a explosion tag attached to his kunai before throwing it, forcing his opponent to evade the blast that followed.
“Oh, you play dirty”, the other said before Iruka felt a kick to his stomach, the force of it forcing air out of his lungs and making him drop to a lower branch of the tree. He hadn’t even seen the enemy move!
I won’t make it , Iruka’s mind told him, but he tried to push the thought back and use the distance to cast a water jutsu at the enemy. The enemy ninja dodged it easily, but the few extra seconds gave Iruka enough time to set a couple of simple traps around the area. The enemy was nearing again, but now Iruka had at least something he could use against the other. The enemy attacked and Iruka dodged, aiming a kunai to the enemy’s side. It didn’t hit its mark and caused Iruka to get hit by an elbow, but it was still working at his favour. They were near one of his hastily made traps. He avoided a knee to his face, twisting away and managing to land a kick before jumping to another branch.
“Just a bit more,” he murmured, barely audible, when the enemy charged at him, clearly getting angry when Iruka wasn’t playing his role as a helpless victim. He jumped at the same branch, taking something from his pocket. Just couple of meters and the trap would be launched. It wouldn’t keep its prey for long, but it would give Iruka enough time to deal with his attacker.
The enemy took the bait when Iruka tensed his muscles, making it seem he was about to jump backwards. The enemy stepped on the trap, making thin wire wrap tightly around his body, blocking all movement.
Iruka let himself pant lightly as he readied his kunai and leaped at his trapped enemy, but halted in midway when he heard a loud cry from below. The battle had taken his thoughts away from his teammates, and now one of them was clearly in big trouble. Iruka looked down. His teammate was down and whimpering on the ground, slightly bleeding through the multiple cuts on his body. The missing nin he had been fighting was closing in, her hands moving fast. A jutsu. Iruka quickly glanced at the trapped nin, then back to the ground. He couldn’t sense his other teammate anywhere near. He had to make a decision.
He lifted his gaze. His enemy was still trapped, but that wouldn’t last for long. Some of the wires were already loosened up. It would, however, hold him enough to give Iruka time to jump down and prevent a mysterious jutsu aimed at his teammate.
So he did just that, jumping down and aiming his kunai at the back of the enemy down below. She was still in the middle of the jutsu and didn’t have time to react to Iruka stabbing her in the back.
“ Take that!” Iruka thought, but his slight feeling of success quickly went away when he felt the jutsu activate, but instead of his teammate he was at the receiving end of it. The force of the jutsu send him flying, and he could really clearly feel his back hit something hard.
Iruka panted, trying to mentally count how many new injuries he had gotten. It felt like something might have broken, but he wasn’t completely sure. Iruka opened his eyes, checking his surroundings. His teammate had been moved by the force of the jutsu, but seemed as fine as he could in the situation. The enemy nin was on the ground, coughing and sluggishly trying to get up.
“ Served her right,” Iruka thought, and then went to quickly check himself over.
“Both hands: good. Legs: moving. Side: maybe something wrong. Strange jutsu that just hit me: still strange”.
Everything seemed fine enough, so with help of the tree he had hit Iruka slowly, and with some dignity, lifted himself up. The world was tilting a bit, but other than that he felt good-ish. A cough went past his lips and with it came the familiar taste of blood. Okay, he felt pretty bad.
“What the fuck went wrong!” he heard the enemy shout out angrily. The jutsu hadn’t been effective?
Iruka didn’t have much time to think more about the mysterious jutsu as he felt a blade against his neck, it’s sharp edge pressing slightly into his skin. Not hard enough to draw blood. Yet .
“Konoha scum!” the not-so-trapped-anymore enemy shouted and continued in a more controlled voice: “It’s a shame to end this so quickly, but troublesome preys need to learn their places.”
Iruka tried to stay calm, to think his way out of this, but as he felt the muscles of his attacker get ready to slice his throat his body froze. Maybe it had been something else than just a suggestion when the Third Hokage had mentioned that the teaching could be his thing. Maybe he wasn’t cut to be a soldier. Had he been too weak? Trusting? Not smart enough?
The blade cut his skin. He could feel it, he could feel the blood starting to drip down his neck. But the blade didn’t have the chance to go deeper. It fell away as his attacker dropped to the ground, his neck cut open as Iruka’s would have been just a second later. It wasn’t relief what he felt when he glanced at his side and saw an ANBU standing there with a bloody knife in his hand. No, it was pure terror . He had never seen an ANBU so close, and even when he knew they weren’t a threat to him it felt frightening to be close to one. No, three actually. The second was over the unconscious kunoichi and the third was checking Iruka’s two teammates for injuries. The relieve of seeing his team alive was enough to make tension leave Iruka’s body, and he allowed himself to drop to his knees.
“Are you injured?” the ANBU asked him, and it took a few seconds to register the words. Iruka took a calming breath.
“Minor wounds, maybe something wrong with my side. Got caught into an unknown jutsu, but it seems it didn’t do anything.”
He felt the ANBU’s hand touch his side and couldn’t help the way his body twitched. The healing chakra was a pleasant feeling. It definitely helped with the discomfort at his side, but as the pain faded the feeling of something being… slightly off hit him.
Iruka and his teammates were left with one of the ANBUs as the other two went to clean up the battlefield. The enemies were tied up and kept unconscious, probably left for an another squad to pick up.
Iruka poked his side, grimacing when it hurt. He had been lucky compared with his teammates who were full of cuts and bruises. Maybe a couple of stabbing wounds too. It was hard to tell with them looking like mummies.
“Time to move,” the ANBU next to them said, glancing at them and making sure they’d all get moving. Iruka rose up slowly, his world tilting a bit before his sudden dizziness passed. Weird, he could have sworn he hadn’t taken any serious blows to his head.
They started their way towards Konoha. Two of the ANBUs were traveling with them, keeping their pace slow enough for the more badly injured to keep up with. They leapt from branch to branch, sometimes slowing down just enough to quickly check if anyone was following them and then continuing their way.
It was just an hour away from Konoha when Iruka started to feel a bit weird. He wasn’t feeling any pain, but his vision started to blur from time to time. First it only lasted for a second at most, but as they continued running the seconds started to add up. Finally it got so bad Iruka had to stop for a moment. The blurring wasn’t going away, and he had to lean on a tree to keep standing up.
“Oi! Is he okay?”
Now that he had stopped running his body felt tired; like the energy was leaving him. He suddenly realized the tree he had been leaning on had been replaced by a person. One of the Anbu was holding him up, his hands too warm against Iruka’s skin. Embarrassing, his brain informed, but as he sluggishly tried to stand by his own feet he only managed to lean more on the other person.
“He mentioned a strange jutsu hitting him but not causing anything. Could this be it?” Iruka could recognize the person speaking as the ANBU who had healed him. He tried to tell them that he was fine, just probably suffering from some kind of minor chakra depletion, but he only manage to whimper softly.
Iruka felt the person holding him press his back against the tree. The blurring was fading a bit, and he tried to focus on the mask in front of him. Where there should have been empty black holes for eyes something red was watching him.
“He’s leaking chakra. Huge amount of it,” he heard the man say. The world was blurring again, and this time it also started to twist and sway. He felt someone take a hold of him from behind as sounds began to fade.
The last thing he saw through the blur in his eyes was the red eye and rapidly moving hands before everything turned black.