Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Sixteen

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1068 words - Complete

Chapter Sixteen

Seventeen-year-old Itachi took a deep breath of the cool morning air as he walked toward the main gate to meet Hana for their morning run. It had become their routine over the last three years. They ran the same route every single morning unless one of them was on mission.

Hana greeted him with a wave, "You're late!"

"I'm not late, you're early." Itachi countered.

"Either way, I'm tired of waiting. Let's go."

Without further pleasantries, Hana took off running with the Haimaru Brothers at her heels. Itachi sighed and ran after her, catching up in a few strides. They rarely raced anymore, preferring to just keep pace with each other instead.

"How's Shisui doing lately?" Hana asked as they rounded a turn, "I haven't seen him for a while."

"He's fine." Itachi replied, not mentioning that Shisui had recently confided that his vision had started to get fuzzy, "Now that he's second in command of the Police Force, he's usually buried in paperwork."

Hana grimaced, "I couldn't handle a desk job. I'd go crazy. You should drag him out here to run with us one of these days."

"I'll ask him."

Itachi and Hana fell silent as fatigue set in. They finished the route back where they started. Despite his efforts to hold it back, Itachi broke into a violent coughing fit just as they slowed to a stop. He tasted the familiar coppery tang of blood, and rubbed his sore chest.

"You really need to get that checked out." Hana advised.

Itachi shook his head, "It's fine. Just a cough."

"'Just a cough' doesn't last three years. Who's the medic here? You or Me?"

"Will it get you off my back if I do?"

"No guarantees, but it couldn't hurt."

"Fine. I'll get it looked at. Happy?"


"Good. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Actually, my team's heading up to the Land of Sound later today. It was kind of a last minute mission, but we'll probably be gone for about a week."

"What are you doing in the Land of Sound?" Itachi asked.

"I'm sure you've heard about the hidden village that popped up all of sudden over there not too long ago."

Itachi gave a nod. It had been a major topic in the ANBU ranks. It was not every day that a new village was established apparently from nothing, particularly so close to the Land of Fire's border.

"We're supposed to recon the area. See, what's weird is that nobody can figure out where this place actually is. As far as anybody can tell, this village—Oto is what they're calling it, I guess—isn't even an actual place."

"Apparently someone took the term 'hidden village' literally." Itachi said with a smile.

Hana laughed, "Guess so. Anyway, I'll see you when I get back."

"Be careful out there."

"Always am. And, by the way, I know everybody at the hospital, so if you don't get checked out, I will know about it."

Itachi chucked and shook his head as he walked away.

Itachi knew that Hana was probably right about his need to see a doctor. He had been suffering from a chronic cough for years now, and it only seemed to be getting worse. He had only recently begun to cough up blood. He had been growing more and more easily fatigued and it was beginning to adversely affect his chakra capability and stamina. He knew he probably should have seen someone about it a long time ago, but he was stubborn in that regard. He had spent a lot of time ill when he was a child, and it had left him with a particular distaste for hospitals. Regardless, he would not be able to do anything about it until his day off.

Naruto was already awake and doing pushups outside his apartment when Itachi arrived. The twelve-year-old had been training intensely for the last few months. It was his last year in the Academy and he had yet to overcome Sasuke in the class rankings. He was determined to finally beat him at graduation. Despite their ever-present rivalry, the two had remained best friends through the years.

Itachi was well aware that Naruto would soon be graduating. Once he did, Itachi's mission would be complete, and the boy's safety would be his own responsibility. The threat from within the village had been virtually non-existent even without Itachi's protection, but he was still concerned about the masked man. There had been no contact from Madara since his attack on Naruto. There had been scattered sightings and some new information regarding the criminal organization that called themselves the Akatsuki, but neither had made a move against Konoha. Years had passed, and Itachi feared that their reprieve was coming to an end, and Madara would soon make good on his word.

Itachi received the usual report from the night shift—which had been reduced to a single operative years ago—and sent him home. Naruto stood up and pulled his shirt back on when he saw Itachi. The boy had hit a growth spurt recently, but was still just a bit shorter than Sasuke, much to his irritation.

"Hey, Itachi-niisan." he greeted with a grin.

Itachi returned the smile, "Good morning."

"So, um… Do you think Hana's going to come by today?" Naruto asked.

Itachi shook his head, "She's leaving for a mission today. Why?"

"Well… I kinda need help with something, and I had some questions."

"And you need to ask Hana? I'm sure I could help you. What's the problem?"

Naruto rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, "…It's about a girl."

Itachi paused, "…Hana will be back next week."

"That's what I thought." Naruto said with a smirk.

The day was routine. Itachi kept watch over the Academy from the shadows, noting a few of Naruto and Sasuke's classmates. They did not look like much at first, but Itachi was impressed by the soon-to-be-graduating class. Many of the students would probably end up as the all too common career-Genin; however, Sasuke and Naruto included, there were maybe eight or nine that had serious potential and had caught Itachi's attention over the past few years. That was an uncommon concentration for a single class. It seemed that the next generation would have some very interesting careers. Perhaps, Itachi feared, a bit too interesting if the masked man made another appearance.
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