Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Ten

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1372 words - Complete

Chapter Ten

Two more days passed with Naruto confined to his apartment under increased guard. There had been no sign of the masked man, but that had done little to quell Itachi's apprehension. Today was the first day of the new school year. Keeping Naruto locked down was no longer an option, nor could the security team post inside the Academy. Itachi came up with an alternative, however. He sat down with Sasuke before school that morning.

"How would you like to help with an ANBU mission?"

Sasuke's eyes widened, "Really? I can help?"

Itachi handed him a small whistle, "I need you to keep your eyes open while you're at school. If you see anything you think is suspicious, I want you to blow that whistle, then get somewhere safe as fast as you can."

"Is someone trying to hurt Naruto?" Sasuke guessed perceptively.

"It's possible."

Sasuke gripped the whistle tightly and gave a determined nod.

Itachi stayed close to Naruto until they reached the Academy. He directed his team to set up a loose perimeter around the building, then concealed himself on the roof of the school. The day was nerve-wracking. The Academy was a high-traffic area, difficult to secure covertly. Itachi had to investigate every time a member of his team signaled that someone was approaching. Despite dozens of false alarms, most of the day passed without incident.

School let out at the usual time. Itachi was scanning the crowd of students for a familiar shock of blond hair when a shrill whistle cut through the air coming from the back of the Academy. In an instant, Itachi was moving. He jumped nimbly from the roof, landing just a few feet from where Naruto and Sasuke stood backed against a wall, a black cloaked masked man before them.

"Boys, run." Itachi ordered, drawing his ninjato.

Naruto and Sasuke needed no prodding. They bolted.

"The ever-vigilant guardian appears." the masked man said mockingly, "It is a pleasure, Itachi."

The deep voice carried with it the same dark feeling that Itachi had sensed the night he first saw him. It gave him the chills, but not as much as the revelation that the man apparently knew his name.

"Identify yourself." Itachi demanded.

"Gladly. I am Madara Uchiha."

Itachi's grip on his ninjato tightened, "Madara Uchiha is dead."

"If you know my name, you know what I am capable of. Hashirama may have bested me once, but he never managed to finish the job. Now he is long dead, and I live on, so who is the victor in the end?"

Was it possible? Could this really be Madara Uchiha? The man who had founded the Leaf alongside the First Hokage, only to betray it? And if it was, what chance did Itachi have against him?

"Regardless of who you claim to be, you're a threat, and it's my duty to eliminate you." Itachi said, activating his Sharingan.

"Try if you'd like." the man said flippantly.

With his ninjato held defensively in Itachi's right hand, his left moved with blinding speed, flinging a half-dozen shuriken at his opponent. Instead of flesh, Itachi heard the dull thunk of the shuriken embedding themselves into the wooden shed a few yards behind his target. Impossible. The man had not moved, and Itachi never missed. Adrenaline flooded his veins and he ripped off his mask, rapidly forming a set of hand seals.

"Magen: Kasegui no Jutsu!"

The genjutsu, supplemented by his Sharingan, would completely immobilize a target, leaving him helpless. In the same moment, Itachi was already forming a second set of seals.

"Katon: Hosenka no Jutsu!"

Itachi unleashed an unpredictable volley of small fireballs like a swarm of bees, almost impossible to evade even when not caught in a genjutsu. Escape should have been impossible. Itachi's Sharingan caught a flicker of movement, just for an instant, and suddenly the masked man was behind him. Blinding pain ripped through Itachi's entire body, paralyzing him.

"You're skilled for one so young. Of course, I'd expect nothing less; you always were the golden boy. But this interruption of yours has drawn more attention than I would have liked. You've cost me time, and now there are more pressing matters I must attend to. You've managed to buy yourself and the Jinchūriki a few years, but I look forward to the next time we meet."

Itachi's world went black.

Itachi floated in endless darkness for what seemed like an eternity. He heard nothing, saw nothing, and felt nothing. Then, from somewhere in the blackness, came a distant sound, then another, and another. It was a steady, rhythmic beep that seemed to be glowing slowly closer. Itachi gradually became aware of feeling returning to his limbs; unfortunately it was only pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. A plain white ceiling and the scent of antiseptic greeted him.

"Doctor, he's awake."

"Send a messenger to the Hokage."

Itachi's vision cleared just in time to be blinded by a penlight. Reflexively, he jerked away from the light.

"Looks like you're alright after all. You had us all worried." said an aged man in a tan medical uniform.

"Where am I?" Itachi asked, his voice hoarse.

"The hospital. We weren't sure you were ever going to wake up."

"How long was I out?"

"About three days."

Itachi sat bolt upright, his body protesting painfully, "Sasuke and Naruto! Are they alright?"

"They're just fine." said the Hokage's voice from the doorway, "In fact, they are waiting outside."

Itachi gave a sigh of relief, easing himself back onto the bed, "What happened?"

The doctor bowed to the Third and stepped out, closing the door behind him.

"I was hoping you could tell me." said Sarutobi, "Naruto and Sasuke told me that they were attacked by the masked man and that you intervened, but that is all I know."

Itachi rubbed his temples, "I tried to fight him, but he was like nothing I've ever seen. It was as if nothing could touch him. What happened to the men who were supposed to be backing me up?"

Sarutobi looked uneasy, "…I don't know. They've disappeared."

"Disappeared? How do three trained ANBU operatives just disappear in their own village?"

"I can't explain it." Sarutobi replied, "Were you able to gather any information on this man?"

"I found out who he… well, who he is claiming to be. He told me that he's…" Itachi hesitated, knowing how ridiculous it sounded, "...Madara Uchiha. I was close enough to see that he… he had a Sharingan."

Sarutobi rubbed his beard, "…Madara. This challenges a lot of preconceptions."

"He said he would be back, but it sounded as if we might have time, maybe even a few years to prepare. That's assuming he wasn't lying."

"I'm getting too old for this." Sarutobi sighed, "Get your rest, Itachi. You did well."

As soon as the Hokage left, four people all tried to squeeze through the door at once. Sasuke, Naruto, Hana, and Shisui were all at Itachi's bedside in the blink of an eye.

"Are you okay, Aniki?" Sasuke asked anxiously.

"I will be. Don't worry."

"You scared us, kid." Shisui told him.

"Never thought I'd ever have to visit you in the hospital." Hana added.

"I guess I'm not invincible." Itachi replied with a half-hearted smile.

Naruto stepped forward, staring at the ground, "I'm sorry, Nii-san. This is my fault." he said quietly.

"No it's not. Naruto, look at me. It's not your fault, do you understand?" Itachi told him firmly.

"…I don't ever want anybody to get hurt protecting me ever again. I'm gonna get stronger so I can protect my friends."

"I'll help. I want to protect my friends too." said Sasuke.

Shisui listened to the boys with a distant smile, "My brother died a long time ago, but it looks like his will is still going strong."

It was several days before Itachi was released from the hospital. As soon as he was discharged, he insisted on going right back to work. He threw himself into training. He had never been so outmatched by an enemy, and he was determined to even the field for his promised next encounter with the man who called himself Madara Uchiha.
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