Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Eighteen

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1564 words - Complete

Chapter Eighteen

It had been several days since Itachi's diagnosis. He had not slept well since. His parents had been unusually invested in him since he had told them, always wanting to sit down and talk, constantly asking him how he was feeling. He knew he should have appreciated it, but in truth, he could not stand it. He just wanted things to be normal. It further reinforced his decision not to tell Shisui and Hana. He could not tolerate any more sympathetic looks, especially from them.

Itachi was determined to maintain his normal routine. He got up at the same time, did the same morning training regimen, then ran with Hana before reporting for duty, just as he always had. The medication helped suppress his cough, making it easier to convince Hana that all was well.

It was late morning and Itachi was posted outside the Academy when one of his subordinates arrived to tell him that the Hokage had called for him. Itachi was used to these meetings by now. Usually they were updates on Madara or briefings about other potential threats. Occasionally he was briefly reassigned to other missions that required his skill set, but it was all fairly routine. This time, however, Itachi was surprised to find Kakashi in the Hokage's office when he arrived.

"Ah, you're here. Good." Sarutobi began, "We have new information on Madara, including a location."

"You found him?" Itachi asked.

It was Kakashi who answered, "Not pinpointed, but we do have it narrowed down to a pretty small area."

"Since Kakashi couldn't keep a Genin team for more than a day, I had to find other work for him." the Third explained, "I put him in charge of a task force with the purpose of gathering information on Madara Uchiha."

A map was laid out on the Hokage's desk, and Kakashi pointed out a mountainous region in the Land of Sound that had been circled in red.

"We had some good leads that all pointed here." Kakashi said, "I sent a few teams to check out the area. They weren't able to get too close, but they were able to confirm that there is definitely some kind of facility there. On top of that, they had a positive ID on Orochimaru in the same area."

"Orochimaru, but not Madara." Itachi guessed.

Kakashi shrugged, "They did have a sighting of a masked man, but they couldn't give a detailed description. There's no way to know for sure if it was him."

"What are you going to do with this information, sir?"

Sarutobi leaned forward, folding his hands in front of him, "This may be our only opportunity for a preemptive strike. Itachi, if you think you're ready, I want you to lead the team."

Itachi hesitated. After three years of intense training, he was stronger now than when he had first faced the masked man. There were few who could hope to match him in genjutsu or ninjutsu, but the illness had not been without effect. His endurance had suffered, as had his chakra reserves. He was sure that he would be able to offer Madara more of a challenge this time, but if he could not end it quickly, he knew he would not last long. Then again, maybe this was the opportunity he needed. He had been disgusted by the prospect of dying pointlessly; maybe this was his chance for a meaningful death. Maybe he could take the enemy down with him.

"Well, Itachi?" Sarutobi asked.

"Naruto will be taken care of in my absence?"

"Of course."

"Then I accept the mission, Hokage-sama. Who is on the team?"

"I've selected one already. Anko Mitarashi is a former student of Orochimaru, and I believe she will be a valuable asset in locating, and if need be, fighting him. As for the rest of the team, that will be up to you. Choose anyone you trust, but I would advise a medic."

It was hardly a choice. There were only two people that Itachi would want watching his back. He knew that if he were to die during the mission, Shisui with his Mangekyo Sharingan had the best chance of anyone to finish Madara for him, and Hana had the best chance at keeping Shisui alive.

"Shisui Uchiha and Hana Inuzuka." he said immediately.

Sarutobi gave a nod, "Very well. I will contact their superiors. Our window of opportunity is very small. You need to leave as soon as possible."

"As long as the rest of the team is prepared, I'll be ready to go before sunrise tomorrow, sir."

"That is acceptable." the Hokage handed Itachi a scroll, "This is the complete intelligence report. I suggest you read it over."

"Yes, sir."

"Itachi, you will brief your team in one hour. Kakashi, good work. You are both dismissed."

Itachi and Kakashi bowed and left the office.

"So, you're sure you're ready to take him on again?" Kakashi asked as he and Itachi walked down the hallway.

"I'm as ready as I'll ever be, Sempai." Itachi replied.

"Try not to get yourself killed. There won't be a hospital nearby this time."

"I'll do what I have to."

Kakashi seemed to consider that for a moment, then gave a nod, "Good luck. I almost wish I was going with you."

Itachi spent the next hour before the briefing studying the intelligence report, then met with his team behind Hokage Tower. Anko Mitarashi was the first to arrive. Itachi had seen her around the village once or twice, but had never really spoken to her. She immediately struck him as strange.

"So, you're the famous Itachi Uchiha, huh? You don't look like much."

"I'm ANBU. That's kind of the point."

Anko shrugged, "Fair enough."

"There's a good chance we're going to end up facing your former sensei on this mission. Is that going to be a problem?"

Anko scowled, "I finally get my shot at taking that son of a bitch down. Trust me; there's no problem."

Hana and Shisui arrived a moment later.

"Thank you for getting me out of there!" Shisui exclaimed, "If I had to proof-read one more police report, I was going to lose it!"

"You may not be thanking me once you find out what we're going to be doing."

"What are we doing?" Hana asked.

"We might have a location on the masked man."

Hana looked confused, "The who?"

"You didn't have the security clearance to know the whole story at the time, but you remember three years ago when I was in a coma, right?"

"No, I forgot about that."

Itachi ignored her sarcasm, "That was after an encounter with a man who claims to be Madara Uchiha. Whether that's who he really is or not, he is unquestionably a major threat. Now we finally have a possible location in the Land of Sound. Our mission is to find him and eliminate him,"

"…This is the guy who handed you your ass three years ago? And now you want to take him on again?" Hana asked warily.

"Hey, it'll be three on one this time. No problem." Shisui said.

Anko cleared her throat loudly.

"Four on one, actually." Itachi corrected. "This is Anko Mitarashi. She was hand-picked for this mission by the Hokage."

"Well, what are we waiting for, boys and girls? Let's get out there and kick some ass, shall we?" Anko enthused, draping her arms around Itachi and Shisui's shoulders.

Itachi slid away from her, "We leave tomorrow at 0400. We'll be traveling light, but make sure you have your full med-kit, Hana. You should all try to get as much sleep as you can tonight; you won't get much of a chance once we leave. I'll give you a full briefing enroute to the target, but if you have any questions, now is the time."

All three shook their heads.

"Alright, then you're dismissed. I'll see you in the morning."

Hana caught up with Itachi as he was walking away.

"Hey, Itachi… I'm not complaining, but… why would you pick me for this mission?" she asked, "There are plenty of medics a lot better and a lot higher ranking than me."

"The Hokage told me to choose someone I trust. I did."

Hana smiled, "Well… I'll try not to let you down." she said, and ran off.

"…Same here." Itachi said once she was out of earshot.

Itachi had one more piece of business to take care of. Over the last few years, he had become acquainted with the ANBU operative Kakashi had suggested as his replacement. Tenzo was very straight-laced and by the book, and Itachi had come to trust him. He had taken over Naruto's detail on occasions when Itachi had been called away on other missions. Today, Itachi found him off duty, reading on a park bench. He sat down beside him.

"Let me guess," Tenzo said without looking up from his book, "You got a mission, and you need me to cover for you."

"If you're available." Itachi replied.

"I think I can help you out."

"I appreciate it."

"Don't mention it. It's usually a nice break."

"…There's a potential for this mission to end badly. If that happens…"

Tenzo finally looked up, "You don't have to worry about Naruto. I'll keep an eye on him."

Itachi stood up and gave a grateful bow, "Thank you."
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