|Twelve Guardian Ninja|
The Twelve Guardian Ninja (守護忍十二士, Shugonin Jūnishi, English TV: Guardian Shinobi Twelve, Literally meaning: Twelve Gentlemen Guardian Ninja) are an elite group of twelve warriors who have left their village and had pledged their lives to protect the Fire Daimyō. The members are identified by the kanji for "Fire" (火, Hi) marked loincloths they wear.
A group which was formed before the start of the story, the Twelve Guardian Ninja have for a long time protected the daimyō. All the original members are dead, but the group continues to operate. About ten years before the start of the series, half of the original members began to believe that only the daimyō should lead the Land of Fire. To that end they planned a coup d'etat against the Hokage, and planned to later conquer the rest of the countries. Kazuma tried to remove the daimyō to replace him with a puppet daimyō, as the current daimyō didn't support the revolt, but he was stopped by Asuma before he could do so. The different ideals split the group in two, which led to a fight between them that only Asuma Sarutobi, Kazuma, and Chiriku survived. It would seem that, sometime before the group was disbanded, some underground organisation put a bounty on most of the members' heads.
In the anime, Kazuma tried once again to destroy the Hokage and Konoha by resurrecting the four fallen loyal guardians. However, Asuma was able to stop and kill him. Chiriku was killed soon afterwards by Hidan and Kakuzu of Akatsuki, in order to collect the bounty on his head. Once they had collected the 30 million ryō they were confronted by Asuma. After a prolonged battle, Asuma was killed too, but they were unable to cash-in on his 35 million bounty after Asuma's reinforcements arrived.
Following the Fourth Great Shinobi World War and the death of several members, the group was reestablished with many new members. Currently lead by Kusari, a powerful shinobi hailing from the farthest corners of the Land of Fire.