Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Nineteen

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1291 words - Complete

Chapter Nineteen

Itachi prepared his gear the evening before the mission. He packed a small supply of field rations, inventoried his weapons, and ensured that everything was in working order. When he had finished, he went looking for Sasuke. He found him in the same clearing where Itachi and Shisui had been training for years. The area was littered with shuriken as Sasuke tried to hit the advanced targets that his brother and cousin trained with. He was doing fairly well.

"Not bad, Otouto." Itachi said, impressed.

Sasuke stopped and turned around smiling, "Hey, Itachi! Do you want a turn?"

"That's alright; I was actually just looking for you."

"I saw someone else took over your shift this afternoon. You got a mission, didn't you?"

Itachi nodded, "I leave first thing in the morning, so I probably won't see you before then. I wanted to say goodbye."

"How long will you be gone?"

"It's hard to say. It depends on how things go."

"But you'll be back in time for our graduation, right?"

Itachi looked away, "…I promise I'll try, but I can't guarantee anything. I'm sorry."

It was apparent that Sasuke was disappointed, but he had matured quite a bit, "It's alright, as long as you try. I'll have missions of my own soon."

"You're going to be a great shinobi someday, Sasuke. I'm proud of you. Remember that."

"You're acting kind of weird, Aniki."

Itachi smiled, "I need to go. If I'm not back by then, good luck on your graduation exam. I know you'll do great." he said, reaching out to poke his little brother between the eyes.

Sasuke rubbed his forehead, "Come on, Itachi; I'm not a little kid anymore."

"I know you're not. Goodbye, Otouto."

There was one last thing Itachi had to do. He headed back into the village and to Naruto's apartment. It struck him as humorous that in the five years he had spent in and around the apartment, this was the first time he had actually knocked on the door. Naruto seemed just as surprised when he answered, but was happy to let him in.

"I see you never did take my advice about cleaning up in here." Itachi observed.

Naruto shrugged, "I'll get around to it."

"I take it from my conversation with Sasuke that you two already figured out that I have a mission."

"Yeah, thought so."

"I'll be leaving in the morning, and I wanted to say goodbye first."

Naruto looked puzzled, "You go on missions all the time. It's never been a big deal before."

"Yes… but this might be a little different. My target is the man who attacked you three years ago."

Naruto's eyes widened, "The guy in the mask? The guy who almost killed you?"

"Hopefully things will be different this time, but if they aren't…"

"Don't even talk about that! There's no way you'd lose!" Naruto exclaimed.

Itachi smiled sadly, "I wish that was true, but…" he trailed off, "Naruto, you don't need me anymore. You're about to graduate, you're about to take on the world on your own. Experience will teach you a lot more than I ever could. Just promise me that if something goes wrong, you and Sasuke will look out for each other."

"…I promise, Itachi-niisan. But nothing's gonna go wrong. You're gonna be fine."

"I hope you're right."

It was still completely dark when Itachi woke the next morning. Since he would not be working in an ANBU capacity on this mission, he set aside his mask and gray flak vest, but decided to keep his arm guards. He sheathed his ninjato and pulled his light backpack onto one shoulder. He paused on his way out the door to check on Sasuke as he slept.

Shisui was passing through the Uchiha gate just as Itachi was.

"It is way too early to be awake." the older Uchiha muttered.

Itachi smiled, "That desk job is making you soft."

"No one in their right mind would choose to be awake at this hour, desk job or not. I am seriously beginning to question your sanity."

Hana and Anko were already waiting at the village's main gate when Itachi and Shisui arrived. Hana looked just as drowsy as Shisui, but the Haimaru Brothers were wagging their tails and pacing around at her feet. Anko looked far too alert and enthusiastic for the setting.

"About time!" she exclaimed, "Are we ready to get a move on, or what?"

Itachi knelt down and spread a map out on the ground. It was the same one that Kakashi had shown him the day before. The rest of the team gathered around.

"This is our destination." Itachi said, pointing to the circled area, "It's a good ways off, but we won't be stopping for the night. All of you know how quickly intelligence becomes outdated, and these reports are already three days old. We need to move fast. Speed will be our main concern, but once we get within two miles of the target location, that will change. I want to get as close as we can before being detected. Once we're within that two mile radius, we'll spread out to search as much ground as possible. The task force believes that there may be members of the Akatsuki in the area. If you make enemy contact, do not engage until you have backup. Do you all have the sign and countersign for the week?"

Shisui, Hana, and Anko all answered that they did.

"Don't forget to use them when we regroup." Itachi said, rolling up the map again, "One more thing. If and when we encounter Madara, I want the three of you to leave him to me. If I fail, then take him out, but do not get involved before then.

All three immediately balked, all talking at once.

"You expect us to just sit on our hands and watch you fight him alone?! Not a chance in hell!" Hana exclaimed.

"I'm the commander of this mission, and this is a direct order."

"It's a retarded order." Anko replied bluntly.

"There is no way that's going to happen, Itachi." said Shisui.

"If you can't follow orders, then I will replace you with someone who can."

The team fell silent, but with gritted teeth and defiant expressions.

Itachi continued, "Shisui and Hana, you're my friends, but on this mission, I am your commanding officer. You're both professionals, and I expect you to act like it. Now, are we going to keep wasting time arguing, or can we get to work?"

Hana set her jaw, but nodded.

"…Fine." Shisui relented.

Anko shrugged, "If you want to get yourself killed playing hero, who am I to stop you?"

Itachi hated having to pull rank, but he was not about to let his friends face Madara without, at the very least, trying to handle it himself first. He would never forgive himself if he outlived one of them. He knew that, despite their grudging acceptance now, it was very unlikely they would follow orders if and when the time came. He still had to make his intentions clear.

The tense start to the mission carried over to the journey. The team was serious, and there was very little in the way of conversation. As they passed into the Land of Sound late in the day, Hana took point since she had recent information on the area. Two of the Haimaru Brothers ran wide of the group's flanks, and the third ran well ahead of them to ensure they were not ambushed, but as the sun began to set, they had encountered nothing more threatening than squirrels. It seemed that this was going to be a long, tedious trip.
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