Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Two

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Warnings: [V] [?] - Published: 2014-07-24 - 2041 words - Complete

Chapter Two

Itachi was awake in the dark, predawn hours. He dressed in his ANBU uniform, still brand new, and pulled his mask down over his face. He ensured that his sheathed ninjato was secure on his back, then picked up the backpack he had prepared the night before, slinging it over one shoulder as he left the Uchiha Compound.

It was well past sunrise by the time Kakashi arrived at the village gates, but Itachi knew better than to comment on his lateness.

"Good morning, Sempai."

Kakashi gave a nod, "Let's get moving. I'll explain the details of the mission enroute."

The road was quiet. It seemed that the two ANBU operatives were the only ones traveling so early in the morning.

"Our mission is to establish surveillance on a suspected traitor and determine if our intel is good. If it is, we eliminate him." Kakashi explained.

"Who is the target?" asked Itachi.

"A former Leaf Jonin named Isao. He went rogue about six months ago, killing another Jonin in the process. Now we have reason to believe he is selling military secrets to enemies. The Intelligence Division thinks that he'll be making an appearance at a hot spring resort on the northern border of the Land of Rivers."

It was normally a nearly two day journey to the border, but the two operatives, traveling light and fast, made it in just over twenty-four hours. It was an almost completely silent journey; neither Itachi nor Kakashi were much for idle chat. They set up their observation point in the tree line a short distance from the hot spring the Intelligence Division's report had indicated. From there, there was little to do but wait. The morning of the second day, the team spotted their target, an average, unassuming-looking man with shaggy brown hair and a pockmarked face. He appeared to be alone.

"Intel thinks he'll be meeting with representatives from Kusa and Taki, minor villages trying to boost their military capabilities. They won't be in uniform, so keep your eyes open." Kakashi instructed.

Another three days dragged on without change. It was tedious, uncomfortable work, but Itachi stayed quiet and kept his focus. It was Kakashi who broke the silence.

"You have a lot of patience for a kid your age. Kind of surprising."

"…Thank you."

"That being said, I think you're way too young for ANBU." Kakashi said bluntly.

"You were young too when you were recruited, weren't you?" Itachi pointed out.

"I was fifteen, and in retrospect, maybe even that was too young. You're not even thirteen yet, and you've never had to serve in wartime like my generation did. You'll be asked to kill in any shinobi branch, but in ANBU it will be routine. You don't want to cross that line until you have to."

"…I've already killed. More than once." Itachi said quietly.

Kakashi's expression was hidden by both his masks, but the silence that followed was telling.

"When?" he asked, finally.

"I was a Genin and my team was assigned a normal D-rank mission delivering supplies to one of the sentry posts only about two miles outside the walls. We were ambushed by a rogue from Kiri who I can only guess was after the supplies. He had decapitated our sensei from behind before any of us knew what was happening. He must have thought I was too small to be a threat, because he focused on my older teammates. I saw my chance and I stabbed him in the neck with a kunai."

Itachi was able to relay the story with the calm matter-of-factness of a mission report, but in reality, the event had left him a shaking, blood-soaked mess. His first strike had killed the attacker, but Itachi, seven years old and terrified, had not stopped stabbing until his teammates recovered enough to pull him off the body. That was the day his Sharingan awakened. It was his first kill, but far from his first encounter with death.

Itachi had been four years old when his father had taken him to see one of the battlefields of the Third Great War, the ground sill red with blood and carpeted with rotting corpses. Even now, he could still remember the screams and moans of the mortally wounded as they lay abandoned and dying. Fugaku had hoped the experience would toughen his son up, harden him. Instead, it had planted within Itachi a deep seated hatred for war.

"I'm surprised you hadn't heard about that mission." Itachi said, "The story got around fast. People started avoiding me. They stopped putting me on teams with other Genin after that."

"So, killing comes easily to you, huh?" Kakashi asked.

"…I didn't say that… I understand that killing is often necessary, but I think it should be a last resort. That's why I like genjutsu."

There was another long silence before Kakashi nodded slowly and turned back to watch the target.

"So, what is worth killing for then?" he asked, not looking at Itachi.

"…Peace." Itachi replied quietly, "If my taking a life will prevent my little brother from ever knowing war… then I'll gladly do it."

Early the next morning, Itachi spotted a traveler approaching the hot spring. At first glance the man seemed to be a typical middle aged civilian, but then Itachi noticed his sandals. They were the light-soled shinobi sandals favored by Kusa for their ability to move quietly through the tall grass native to their country. Itachi also observed that the man's right hand hovered closer to his hip than his left, likely indicating a concealed weapon on that side.

"I think I found our Kusa operative, approaching from the north."

"Now that's timing." Kakashi replied, "Our Taki operative just crested the hill from the east. If Isao speaks to them, our orders are to take him out before he can pass on any sensitive information."

Sure enough, the deserter did indeed meet with both men. He spoke to both operatives separately, going between them intermittently. It was clear he was trying to play them against each other to raise the price.

"We'll move as soon as the lights go out. Make sure Kusa and Taki don't see anything."

"Yes, Sempai."

When the last light in the inn went dark, Itachi and Kakashi slipped out of the trees and easily scaled the wall into the courtyard. Kakashi slid open a window, and they both slipped quietly into the dark hallway. They located their target's room and took up positions on either side.

"We have to kill this one. You can stay outside if you want." Kakashi offered.

Itachi shook his head, "I took an oath to defend the village. I'll do what's necessary."

"In that case, I'll hold you to it. This will be your kill. Last chance to change your mind."

In response, Itachi drew his ninjato.

Kakashi slipped a paper flash bomb under the door. The flash was blinding but silent on the other side. The moment it went off, Itachi and Kakashi burst through the door, quietly enough not to wake any other guest in the inn. Isao was not caught completely off guard. He lunged quickly but blindly, swinging a kunai clumsily at the ANBU operatives. Itachi easily caught the blade against his own.

"The hell?!" Isao exclaimed, trying to blink the blindness away, "ANBU's sending brats now? That's just insulting."

Itachi activated his Sharingan and, with his free hand, formed the seal to spring the genjutsu trap he had prepared before even entering the building. Isao's eyes went glassy and the kunai slipped out of his hand.

"I guess the Third wasn't exaggerating your genjutsu skill." commented Kakashi.

"Let's just finish this, Sempai."

"Like I said, it's your kill."

Itachi reversed his grip in his ninjato, and in one smooth motion, drew it across Isao's throat. The traitor fell to the ground, a growing pool of blood flowing from the wound. Itachi kept his finger on his pulse until it disappeared.

"He's gone."

Kakashi searched the room while Itachi searched the body, collecting every trace of sensitive information or potential intel they found. With the room cleared, they departed. The Kusa and Taki operatives might suspect who had assassinated their contact, but there would be no sign that ANBU had ever set foot there. With any luck, they might even blame each other.

The journey back to Konoha was just as silent and uneventful as the one to the Land of Rivers. The village gates were a welcome sight. Itachi was eager to see Sasuke and find out how he had fared on his aptitude test, but first he had to report to the Hokage.

Itachi and Kakashi bowed before the Third.

"Please, please, relax." he said, "Did the intelligence prove accurate?"

"Yes, Hokage-sama." Kakashi reported, "The target was eliminated."

"That is unfortunate," Sarutobi sighed, "But well done. What is your current evaluation of your probationary operative, Kakashi?"

Kakashi's one visible eye glanced at Itachi, "He's ready."

The Hokage raised an eyebrow, "After one mission?"

Itachi shared the Hokage's surprise. Most ANBU operatives remained on probationary status for months, if not years, and those were men with far more experience than Itachi.

Kakashi shrugged, "You asked for my evaluation, sir."

"So I did. Very well, I trust your judgment. Congratulations, Itachi, and well done."

Back in ANBU headquarters, Itachi wiped the blood from his fresh tattoo.

"Kakashi-sempai… I need to know one thing." he said, "Did you only pass me… because I'm Obito's cousin?"

Kakashi looked away, "Obito had nothing to do with it. I started that mission without any intention of passing you. You're just a kid. But… I realized that you're also an extremely talented shinobi. I could either fail you for your own good, or pass you for the good of the village. I took a wild guess which one was more important to you. Welcome to ANBU, kid. Don't let it destroy you."

It was dark when Itachi made it back to the Uchiha Compound. His parents were sitting in the front room when he entered the house.

"You're home!" Mikoto exclaimed, "How was your mission?"

"It was successful."

"Are you okay? You weren't hurt, were you?"

"I'm fine, Mom."

"What about your evaluation?" Fugaku asked.

Itachi pushed up the sleeve on his left arm, revealing the tattoo.

Fugaku smiled widely, "Very good. At this rate you could be Hokage soon. Keep it up, Itachi."

"Where's Sasuke?"

"I think he's at the river." Mikoto replied.

Itachi dropped off his gear in his room, and then went looking for Sasuke. He found him sitting at the end of the dock and sat down beside him.

"Hey, Otouto. How did the test go?"

"…I got the highest score in my class." Sasuke muttered, not looking at him.

"That's great. So why don't you seem happy about it?"

"Because… Dad said I should have gotten a perfect score. Like you."

Itachi sighed. Fugaku had always held unreasonable expectations for both his sons. Itachi had endured sleep deprivation, chakra exhaustion, and broken bones to meet those expectations, resulting in chronic illness throughout his childhood. He was determined not to let Sasuke go through what he had. Unfortunately, that meant that Sasuke had to endure Fugaku's disappointment instead.

"Sasuke… Don't worry about what Dad says. You're going to surpass me someday. I have no doubt about that. Someday I'll just be a footnote under your name in the history books."

"You're a liar, Itachi. Everybody knows Dad's setting you up to lead the clan, maybe even be Hokage someday. Nobody cares about me."

"I do. I will always be there for you, Sasuke, even if it's only as an obstacle for you to overcome. That's what big brothers are for." Itachi told him, "Besides, I would make a terrible Hokage."

Sasuke finally cracked a smile at that. Itachi reached over and poked his forehead affectionately.

"Come on," he said, getting to his feet, "Let's go home."

"Wait! How was your mission, Aniki?"

"It was fine. But I'm full ANBU now, so I'm probably going to be gone a lot more from now on."

"You'll still be able to spend time with me sometimes, right?"

"Of course."

"Then that's okay."
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