Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Twenty

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1040 words - Complete

Chapter Twenty

Itachi knew his team was tired when they finally reached the target location. Their only stops along the way had been for brief cold meals or to recon danger areas. They had all been popping soldier pills throughout the journey, so they had not quite begun to feel it yet, but Itachi knew they would be dead on their feet once the stimulants wore off. He needed to complete the mission before that happened.

When Itachi estimated that they were within the two mile mark, he gestured for the team to stop, then crouched down, the others gathering around.

"You know what to do. Stay within three hundred meters of each other. If you make contact, withdraw and wait for backup."

Hana, Shisui, and Anko nodded quickly, and Itachi signaled for them to disperse.

Itachi moved quickly but deliberately, alert for any sign of the enemy. The forest was a dense mass of twisted trees that, combined with the mountainous terrain and thick underbrush, make it difficult to maneuver. For a split second, Itachi could have sworn he saw a face watching him from the bark of a nearby tree, but the moment he blinked, it vanished. He shook his head. Clearly the soldier pills and lack of sleep were starting to take a toll, and the light filtering through the dense canopy was playing tricks on his eyes. He pushed the incident to the back of his mind and pressed on.

The further Itachi went without encountering resistance, the more anxious he became. There had been no sentries, no traps, nothing to indicate the enemy's presence. That meant there were three possibilities. Either the task force's information was wrong, it was outdated, or the enemy was confident enough not to feel the need for perimeter security. None of those possibilities were particularly comforting.

After a while, Itachi slowed his pace, knowing that he must be coming up on the center of the circled area. Sure enough, he soon came upon what at first appeared to be a pile of boulders in a clearing. Itachi crouched down, moving forward carefully. Upon closer inspection, he spotted an opening in the rocks; a cave entrance. He silently moved along the edge of the tree line to get a better look and activated his Sharingan. With his visual acuity enhanced, he could easily see that the ground at the mouth of the cave was packed down, and it was clear that there had been recent activity in the area. He could also make out what appeared to be manmade support beams shoring up one of the cave walls. This had to be it.

Itachi moved back into the cover of the trees, bit his thumb, and summoned three crows. He sent one to each member of the team, calling them back to his location. It was not long before they began to arrive. Itachi challenged them each with the sign in case of an imposter, but each responded with the correct countersign.

"What've you got?" Hana asked quietly.

"A small cave outside the tree line." Itachi replied, "Definite signs of recent foot-traffic."

The team followed Itachi and took up positions along the tree line. Itachi allowed them all to get their own look at the site before signaling them to advance. Once close enough, he scanned the mouth of the cave for booby traps, but found nothing.

"It's clear. I'll take point." he said.

"Oh, no you won't" Shisui replied, pushing past him and activating his Sharingan, "Team leader never takes point. That's my job."

Shisui was technically correct about standard procedure, so Itachi decided not to argue this time, and fell in behind his cousin. They had to duck through the entrance, but the tunnel opened up a bit once inside, allowing them to stand upright easily; still, the quarters were uncomfortably tight. The cave floor sloped sharply downward from the entrance. It was almost unnaturally dark, and there was a strange scent in the air, something chemical-like that burned the lungs. The Haimaru Brothers whined softly. Itachi could not blame them. The unease was palpable.

As the team slowly made their way further into the darkness, Itachi thought he saw a shape, almost like a human outline, jutting out from the wall; but just like the face in the woods, it was gone before he could be sure it was there at all. It was far too dark to have seen anything clearly, even with his Sharingan active. This time however, one of the Brothers let out a low growl, confirming what Itachi's own senses could not.

"There's something in here."

"Yeah…" Hana agreed, "But I don't smell anything human."

"Could you have made that sound any creepier?" Shisui asked.

Despite the complete darkness, Itachi could perfectly picture the indignation on Hana's face, "I'm just stating facts. It's not my fault you're a wuss."

"Just keep moving." Itachi instructed, "But keep a close eye on our rear. I don't want our only exit cut off."

The first section of the narrow tunnel seemed to be natural cave, but as the team moved deeper, they began to see unmistakable signs of excavation. The walls became flat and uniform, and the path began to widen. Before long, Shisui brought them to a halt, and Itachi immediately saw why. There was light ahead, and the tunnel appeared to open up into a larger chamber. It was a dangerous position not knowing what they might be walking into.

"I got this." Anko volunteered.

She bit her thumb and performed the quick hand seals necessary for a summoning, calling up a dark green snake about three feet long and as thick around as her arm. It slithered ahead of the team and around the corner toward the light. It was a few minutes before it returned. It wound itself up Anko's body with its head coming to perch over her shoulder, its tongue flickering. Itachi almost shivered at the sight, but Anko seemed perfectly comfortable. She did not speak, but it was obvious that she was able to communicate with the serpent. Her eyes hardened at whatever it relayed to her.

"I don't know about your masked man." she reported, "But Orochimaru is here."
Sign up to rate and review this story